Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stadium Seating

Someone at BPG discovered a website with the seating diagram and prices of the new stadium.

I don't care about the stupid fat cats and their panda-tear bidets, but the upper deck seats where cheapos like me live are surprisingly cheap! $10 seats on the wings!!!

If these really are the final prices, woohoo! Supply and demand wins out again!

(And if this isn't legit, then forget you ever saw it!)

Fouled-Off Bunts: Universal Health Care Edition

Not good news all around...

  • Shawn Hill had pain in a throwing session on Saturday and is getting a second opinion on his sore right elbow. He pitched most of the year with forearm pain, which usually translates into elbow problems. Given his previous elbow surgeries, they're being extra cautious, and he's likely out til mid-June at the earliest, pending the results of today's exam.

    Hill's in a tough position in that he's so reliant on the slider and curve to offset that heavy sinker, but those are the same pitches that stress the arm/elbow. Even if there's no structural damage, he's probably always going to have some sort of arm pain, and something could develop down the road. Unless he figures out a way to alter his mechanics to lessen the stress, he could be a ticking time bomb. Of note, he's claiming that altered mechanics after his separated left shoulder are the cause of his latest pain, but I'm pretty sure that he was experiencing forearm stiffness -- which isn't necessarily out of the ordinary for a pitcher -- prior to that.

  • Jason Bergmann, who was supposed to only be out for the minimum, had a cortisone shot in his elbow last week, after having fluid drained from it. There doesn't appear to be a timetable for his return.

  • Ryan Wagner is visiting James Andrews, which is never a good sign. He's having rotator cuff problems, and if there's one injury that a pitcher realllllly doesn't want, it's a rotator cuff problem. They're really hard to fix, and many never get back to full strength, if it's a full tear.

  • Nick Johnson is fielding and hitting, but your guess is as good as his for when he'll return.

  • John Patterson threw 25 pitches from the mound and is long-tossing as he recovers from a mysterious nerve problem in his arm/shoulder/elbow. They think it's something in his neck, just some nerve compression that's affecting his entire arm. Part of his rehab has entailed neck and shoulder massages, which must be a hell of a delightful rehab.

  • Luis Ayala is on the mend.

    Alright... non-injury stuff...
  • Matt Chico bumps Levale Speigner from the rotation on Friday, but that leaves Saturday's spot open, where it's likely that the recently un-DL'd Joel Hanrahan gets the start. Hanrahan throws hard, but has had severe control problems at higher levels. He's walked 11 in 24+ innings this year, which isn't great. He's done well in keeping the ball in the park, at least.

  • If you needed any more proof that Baltimore is a hellhole...

  • Jim Bowden's weakly [sic] column focuses on the draft. He doesn't sleep, it's hard being him, blah blah blah.

  • T(h)om Loverro is fascinated by Ted Leonsis' fascination with "Teh PLAN!!!"

  • If you need a restaurant recommendation, try the good folks at Nationals Farm Authority.

  • Svrluga is officially a blogger, with recurring features and random lists of mostly meaningless and contextless numbers. Welcome to the club! He asks which former Nats we miss, and which were the worst. If you missed it, here's my Top 10 List.

  • The DC Sports Bog has a semi-prescient post on the impending "correction" to the Nats record, and gives us the lowdown on some other similar hot stretches by crappy teams.

  • Why should you care about the Diamondbacks signing some doofus? Because that doofus had a decent chance of being drafted by the Nats next week had he not signed last night. NFA has a rundown of who some of the likely names are.

  • If you didn't see it on my sidebar, OMG's takedown of Tom Boswell's last column is worth a quick read. He also makes a decent argument for why Logan needs more playing time.

  • Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    Weep For Ray King

    There was a game tonight?

    Netflix Report: No movie tonight. Just a trip to Huntley Meadows and Target. The prior is prettier and cheaper, though the latter smells better.

    Sad news for Ray King:
    Starting with the current homestand, the team got rid of junk food such as M&Ms, Milky Way bars, Twinkies and Skittles. In are fruits, walnuts, carrots and a salad bar. Fried chicken has also been banned from the premises. Instead, they will have rotisserie chicken.

    According to general manager Jim Bowden, the idea came from catcher Brian Schneider and right-hander John Patterson, who felt it was time for the team to eat healthier. Bowden, trainer Lee Kuntz and clubhouse manager Mike Wallace agreed with the plan and implemented it on Tuesday.

    "It's important how we eat and take care of our body. You don't want to walk into a clubhouse and have junk food," Schneider said. "You want to give the guys choices and options. If they want to eat healthy, we have given them that choice. They took a lot of stuff out."

    Poor Ray King. Buck sez his performance suffers.

    Meanwhile, Brian Schneider's a food nazi? Choice, sure, so long as you like gray!

    I'd make a Lerner Is Teh Cheeepp!1!1 joke, but I think the players chip in for the clubhouse spread.

    Still, no skittles? What the hell kind of work operation are they trying to run there!!!! It's a little known rule, but if you check Title 8 U.S.C. (sections 1345(a), I think), Skittles are a constitutional right of the workforce. So Lerner might not be cheeeeep!!!! but he tramples on our civil rights. Have you no decency, sir?

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    Ah, The Orioles Plan

    Boswell writes something bright and chipper today about the success of "The PLAN!" (incidentally, I'm sick of attempts to evaluate "The PLAN!" after 50 games; it's not about this season, but about where the team is in 2010, but that's a diatribe for another day).

    At any rate, a graf at the end caught my attention.
    By next season, the Nats probably will add one or two free agents in the $5 million to $7 million range. And trades, even significant ones, now are possible with more depth of talent. At the very least, the whole Nats clubhouse expects a 30-homer bat under its Christmas tree. But the Hall of Fame-level, $15 million-a-year player -- the last piece of the puzzle, such as when Greg Maddox [SIC] went to Atlanta in 1993 -- isn't going to arrive until the Plan is much closer to fruition. You can bank on that.

    That's the Orioles plan. Why spend good money on a valuable player when you can buy three mediocrities for the same amount?

    Here's a complete list of players who got 5-7 million per year in last year's offseason.
  • Rich Aurilia
  • Danys Baez
  • Octavio Dotel
  • Ray Durham
  • Pedro Feliz
  • Keith Foulke
  • Eric Gagne
  • Jose Guillen
  • El Duque
  • Shea Hillenbrand
  • Aubrey Huff
  • Kenny Lofton
  • Jason Marquis
  • Bengie Molina
  • Mark Mulder
  • Jay Payton
  • Dave Roberts
  • Justin Speier
  • Woody Williams

    Would you have signed any of those deals? Maybe Durham or El Duque? Maybe Marquis -- though only with the benefit of hindsight?

    5-7 buys you an injury rehab case, aged mediocrities or league average players that even a lame farm system or a traipse through the minor league free agents and non-roster invitees could reproduce for a league minimum salary.

    This is the exact approach the Orioles have always taken with Free Agency, and they're well represented with three selections here. Only Payton is living up to expectations, if 1 HR and a sub-.400 slugging percentage is where your expectations were.

    So why go this approach? They shouldn't.

    The Nats should either go big, with an impact bat, or they should go home, and try to find next year's Dmitri Young.

    I suspect that they understand this better than Tom Boswell. And I pray to God that they understand it better than their comrades in the hellhole up north.

  • I Picked The Wrong Week to Quit Sniffing Glue

    ...but I didn't pick the wrong night to Netflix it instead of watching the game. What the hell happened? Can one game erase two weeks worth of good feelings? Why am I asking so many questions? I didn't even watch the game.

    Quick review: Capote was pretty good. I was expecting it to be boring, considering how it's about a effete New York intellectual traipsing around corn fields in search of higher forms of art. I can't say that it had me on the edge of my seat, but as a character study, it was quite effective. And Hoffman's performance as Capote was much more believable and engrossing over the course of the entire movie than during a :30 clip where his voice and style can be jarring.

    Quick review of tonights game: Simontacchi stinks. The bats stink. I dunno. I'm making it up. What say you?

    Incidentally, I read this, and my first reaction was a mixture of revulsion and horror at the idea, then some sympathy with the writer who was likely asked to write a puff piece to promote All-Star balloting. But the more I thought about the former (the latter thought something I casually disregarded almost immediately), the more it actually -- GASP! -- makes sense.

    With his recent hot stretch, Dmitri Young is now up to .298 .387 .468. While that's not jaw-dropping, we need to keep those two points in mind that I keep hammering home 1) offense is down league-wide; 2) RFK sucks the life out of our bats.

    When you adjust his OPS+ for the context of the league and park, he's at a 131 OPS+, which means he's been 31 percent better than the average batter in the league. That's an All-Star caliber season, even if it's coming from a fat DH. That's an OPS+ number that's right in line with what Carlos Delgado did last year, a year any one of us would gladly take!

    And most importantly, the average NL 1B stinks. They're hitting .256/ .319/ .376 as a group. By unadjusted OPS, he's clearly better than some guys you'd have in the back of your mind like Delgado, Nomar and Berkman. By Runs Created per game, he's better than Pujols -- which isn't as laughable as it seems on its face given Pujols' struggles. By Baseball Prospects' EQA (an offensive only stat), he's among the league leaders.

    Is he a deserving All-Star? Probably not. Helton, Gonzalez, Fielder and probably Lee deserve to go ahead of him (and Pujols is a virtual lock to be selected as a starter).

    But he wouldn't be an embarrassing one.

    And nobody, not even Jim Bowden would've thought that 3 months ago. And certainly nobody would've thought that on May 5 when an 0-3 night bottomed him out at a pathetic .225/ .328/ .392.

    In those 17 games since: .452/ .511/ .619.

    Those aren't All-Star numbers; those are MVP numbers.

    We're not that crazy though!

    8 Down, 2/3 To Go

    Another week, another five wins. Wait! Five wins!? They're now 12-5 since that last homestand began.

    What they've done certainly feels inexplicable, but let's try anyway.
    1) They played lousy teams. Sure, they took 2/3 from the Braves, but the other teams they beat are a combined 28 games under .500 with a .430 winning percentage. Sure, they're "better" than we were, but it's not like we swept the Brewers and Padres, teams that took 5/6 from us immediately preceding this hot stretch.

    2) The offense was under-performing, and what we're seeing is partially rebounding and partially players doing what they should've been doing in the first place.

    3) They're hitting with RISP. Just as the .100-something drought wasn't emblematic of their real talent, this stretch of .300-something isn't likely sustainable either.

    That being said, here's the team's individual offensive stats since the hot streak began. Other than Dmitri Young, do any of those numbers look that far out of line with what players could do? Guzman, perhaps. So what we've seen over the last few weeks is an offense that's playing about where it should, even if it's maximizing its run-scoring capabilities because of some luck with RISP.

    The pitching, on the other hand? Really, who can explain that. We're so far beyond smoke and mirrors, it's crazy. I'm guessing that Ted Lerner sold his soul to the devil.

    Still, remember that this is a team that's 9 games below .500. We're better, but they'd have to continue this torrid stretch through mid-June just to get back to .500. Doable, sure. Likely? We'll see.

    Nats Record: 5-2
    Overall: 21-30, 15th in the NL
    Expected Record: 64-98. At one point, they were on "pace" for 20 fewer wins than this. Of course, at one point, Tuffy Rhodes was on pace for 486 homers.
    Runs Scored: 43 (6.1/g); 191 (3.7/g). For as good as the offense has been lately, it's still 15/16 in the NL, although factoring park in probably moves them safely to the middle of the pack.
    Runs Allowed: 36 (5.1/g); 241 overall (4.7/g), 11/16. Here's a hidden warning sign. The pitching really wasn't that good, but it didn't seem like a problem because of the great hitting this week. If the Nats scored like they did almost any other week, they're 2-5 this week instead of the other way around.

    What's Good?
    1) Team slugging! Here's the complete list of regular Washington Nationals batters who slugged under .500 this week: Cristian Guzman (.481), Nook Logan (.308). Young, Schneider, Church and Langerhans were all over .600. Think they like hitter's parks and lousy pitching staffs? Team slugging went up 26 points this week.

    2) The bullpen! If we ignore Jon Rauch, they were pretty solid this week. Winny Abreu and Chad Cordero combined for an extra-inning CG shutout this week. (in effect!)

    3) Dmitri Young! He hit over .500!? this week with four doubles and six RBI. Maybe it was the foot, and maybe someone will be interested in him.

    What's Bad?
    1) Levale Speigner. 13 runs in 6+ innings? If we wanted that kind of production, we'd have re-signed Ramon Ortiz. (Funny, the idiots clamoring for his re-signing based on three hot starts early this year haven't said anything lately. I wonder why.)

    2) Teh Nook. Someone (Federal Baseball?) said it best. He's a one-tool player. We don't like to think of speedsters like that, preferring that pejorative for all-or-nothing sluggers like Russell Branyan, but it fits Teh Nook just as well. A .259 OBP and .308 slugging isn't going to get it done unless he's catching everything, and he certainly hasn't been doing that.

    3) Jon Rauch. What I love about Rauch is how fickle fans are and how they're ruled by emotion. (Yes, I fall trap to the same thing; i'm not implying that I'm above that). If you want to know how a fan feels about their team, look at the last-10 column in the standings. Our simple pea brains can't process much more than a week or two's worth of emotion. Anything beyond that is ruled by fact and numbers moreso than emotion. Sure, we remember happy times like Zimmerman's walkoff against the Yankees, but it's almost impossible to put it into context of the roller coaster of emotion that comes with a season.

    All this is a way of saying look back two weeks. Everyone was calling for Chad Cordero's head, insisting that Jon Rauch was the better, more reliable, and stronger pitcher. Two weeks later, are you going to stand by that?

    Nope. And that's the fun of being a fan. We don't have any accountability! We are free to change our minds and our wishes on a whim like our hero Tom Boswell.

    Game O' The Week
    I dunno. Pick one. They were all good, right?

    Weekly Awards
    MVP: For the second straight week, it's Dmitri Young. The old man's had quite a run!

    LVP: Teh Nook. See above!

    Cy Young: Lots of good choices. The starters were good, not great. Why not Winny Abreu? 6+ innings, 6 K, 0 BB?

    Joe Horgan: Levale Speigner. Ugh.

    Weekly Whips:
    5/21: Rauch stunk, but Ryan Zimmerman had 3 hits, 2 RBI and 2 Runs, exactly what you want a 3 hitter to do.
    5/22: Felipe Lopez was Grand with 6 RBI!
    5/23: Ryan Church had two homers and matched Lopez' 6 RBI -- tying the Nats' single-game record!
    5/24: A Cristian Guzman homer is a beautiful thing.
    5/25: Might Austin Kearns' catch be the best defensive play we've seen since '05?
    5/26: Dmitri Young had two hits and two walks; it's not his fault that Speigner stinks.
    5/27: Sure, Langerhans had the slam, but it wouldn't have mattered without Belliard's four hits, homer and RBIs.

    What's Ahead?
    The Nats start a homestand with two good teams, the Dodgers and Padres. It'll be interesting to see if this hot streak continues, especially with much of the offensive improvement coming as a result of favorable road parks (and their opponents' lousy pitching).

    Of the next five starters on the Probable Pitcher listing, the highest ERA is Derek Lowe's at 3.64. It's going to be a tough week as the RISP luck is likely to dial back a bit, the opponents get stronger, and the park takes away some of those cheap homers the team hit in Cincinnati.

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Your Wayne Krivsky Taunting Post O' The Day

    Hey, Wayne! Jim Bowden's teams never had sole posession of LAST PLACE! The Reds haven't had a team with a .375 winning percentage since 1937. Congrats, you putz!

    (I feel bad for the Reds fans. They're good fans, with a long and storied history. It's not their fault their GM is a whiny bitch -- and a hack!)

    I love how the official photo of him on the Reds' website makes it appear as if he's stoned out of his mind (and based on the color, probably on carrots).

    Your Holy S Moment O' The Day

    From Baseball Musings:
    Washington survives two late runs by Cincinnati to take tonight's contest 4-3. The Nationals are now winners of 10 of their last 14 games. That follows an eight game losing streak. They're scoring 5.3 runs per game during this period. The the best in the National League from May 11th on.

    The Gift Horse's Tonsils

    I got confused when I checked my mail today and saw a season ticket package. I thought it was far too early to get the relocation guide from the new stadium -- they've sent two emails saying that it's delayed -- but it said 2007 season tickets on it.

    I opened it up, and it was a similar mailing to the ticket re-order form I ignored most of the off-season. There was more info there about the ticket exchange program -- I've got a pile of unused tickets that I need to cash in; wanna come to a game with me?

    Anyway, it included a voucher for four Terrace tickets to any future game, a nice gesture, and one that's appreciated! Well done, Nats!

    (The cynic in me would point out that there's no cost to the team because those tickets wouldn't sell anyway, so it's a good thing I haven't completely given in to my cynical side... yet)

    Size Matters

    With the preface that I'm not trying to piss on anyone's parade...

    Yesterday's homer outburst was fun to watch (at least when we weren't pitching!), but much of it comes down to a difference in parks, not so much the quality of the team's offense. As I said in a post a day or two ago, GAB's ballpark yields about 40% more homers than RFK does. The main reason for this is the size of the park.

    I stole some diagrams from our good friends at Diamond-Mind baseball, and overlaid the two parks so you can get an idea of what kind of size differences we're talking about.

    RFK, you can hopefully guess, is in blue. GAB was in Red, but the pretty purple color (damn color blending!) seems appropriate too.

    You can see the huge difference in territory in the two gaps. If you hit it in the first 5-10 rows to right at GAB, it's on the warning track at RFK. Same thing, to a lesser extent, in left. It also shows one of the reasons that batting averages are so much lower at RFK: there's a ton of foul territory there. I haven't seen the stats on it lately, but in '05, RFK had more foulouts than almost every other park, roughly 2 a game.

    The Nats hit four homers last night, and I'd guess from watching them, that only two of them would've been out at RFK.

    --Ryan Church's first-inning homer landed 3 rows or so just to the left of the gap in right. That's probably a warning-track shot at RFK.

    --Brian Schneider's fourth-inning homer went a few rows back in right-center, and likely would've stayed in the park at RFK.

    --Ryan Zimmerman's is probably out at RFK, especially because he pulled it, but it's a lot closer than the monster shot it looks like here.

    --Ryan Church's second homer would've hit off the Wall of Stars.

    --Ryan Freel definitely wouldn't have had a homer either.

    The Nats did a good job of taking advantage of their surroundings. And I'm not trying to denigrate the offense. I'm just saying that you need to consider the context of events.

    RFK has a strong negative effect on the team's batters, so looking at their raw stats doesn't really do them justice. At the same time, our pitchers would perform worse in a different environment.

    But this also means that you can't look at an offensive explosion in a bandbox of a park against crappy pitchers and think that the team has finally figured out how to hit. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    The next question, then, is how will this affect the team next year?

    Here's an overhead of the new park: I haven't seen much on the dimensions, but what I can dig up:
    332 to left, 377 left-center, 409 center, 370 right-center, 335 to right.

    The picture makes those dimensions look pretty generous, but the gaps are 10-20 feet closer in the new place than they are at RFK (where they're about 390). They're much closer to GAB's dimensions (379 to the gap in left, 370 to the gap in right), than they are to RFK.

    That's not to say that it's going to play the same way. Atmospheric conditions -- humidity, wind, air pressure, etc -- play a large role.

    But it certainly seems like we'll be due for more offense next year, even before they run out and sign Andruw Jones. (HA!)

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Hey Krivsky!

    Enjoy LAST PLACE, you miserable bastard!!!

    Yes, I'm a child!

    That Sums It Up

    In a comment at Nats 320, Basil sums up the malaise I feel and which I poorly explained last night.

    He, as usual, makes some excellent points. A sample:
    In light of "The Plan," what the team is doing is giving us the chance to look at these guys from a distance, a bit dispassionately, and evaluate who's really part of the plan long-term and who's a functionary. I'm not going to expend too much passion on functionaries, because for many people (including me) passion and patience are in some tension. I'm in patience mode.

    But read the whole stinkin' thing.

    Three On Twenty-Five

    Brian Schneider: He's still batting .231 and slugging under .300. His Isolated Power (Slugging - Batting) is right around where it was last year, which is about half of his career totals. Where has his power gone?

    Jesus Flores: By OPS+, he's the best hitter on the team (125). What's impressive about his line (.286 .419 .400) are those isolated numbers. Even if he can't hold that batting average -- and it's likely he can't -- he's still useful because he walks and hits for power, so he's contributing even with a low batting average.

    Dmitri Young: After fighting back from his foot injury, he's right about at his career averages relative to the league -- a 113 OPS+. He's walking a lot more (12%) than he has for his career (7%). But, wow, the defense...

    Robert Fick: Managers often have players who are security blankets to them, and I guess that Robert Fick is Acta's. How else to explain his daily appearance given his .192 Batting average and .231 slugging? Sure, he's better defensively at first than Dmitri Young is, but then so is Stan Kasten.

    Ron Belliard: Since his hot start, he's been in a complete freefall. Since the day Manny moved him up to #2, he's hit .221/ .279/ .274. Might we miss Josh Wilson?

    Ryan Zimmerman: Since May 5th, he's been the hitter we're used to: .279/ .311/ .544. The batting average and obp are a bit low, but the isolated power is there. For the season, he's hit about 7% fewer line drives than last year, but it seems like that's changed lately.

    Felipe Lopez: Can a team carry a leadoff hitter with a .298 OBP? He's drawing walks at half the rate he did last year while striking out at the same pace, an indication that he's lost some plate discipline. I think he's going to be an intriguing decision for the Nats in the offseason.

    Cristian Guzman: On a rate basis, this is his second best season, by far. He's drawing walks at twice the rate of his career (10% versus 5%) and hitting lots more groundballs, but other than that, the rest of his numbers aren't that different than what he's done in the rest of his career. He's been far more hit lucky (.320 BABIP versus .255 in '05) this year, but that's likely a function of him driving the ball a bit better, even if he's not scorching liners all over the park.

    Tony Batista: Have you noticed how big his ass is? It's not that it's wide, but that it's really long from waist to bottom. It's the ass of a 50-year-old housewife.

    Ryan Church: Did you realize that his slugging average was down to .428? Still, only Young's .432 is higher. He's walking a bit more this year, and striking out significantly less.

    Nook Logan: Range Factor is a flawed stat, but I'll point out that he has the lowest RF of any of the four players who've played CF for the Nats this year. In fairness, he's well ahead of Church and Kearns in Zone Rating, a somewhat better defensive stat. On the offensive side, I can't find one stat that shows improvement, and it'd probably be cruel of me to point out his one for seven success rate on the bunt.

    Ryan Langerhans: He has hit a depressing .258/ .324/ .323 as a Nat, which is only slightly better than the currently disabled Chris Snelling. What's amazing is that he's hit .204/ .319/ .316 over the last calendar year. Maybe he just sucks?

    Austin Kearns: He certainly alternates looking brilliant and terrible in the field and at the plate. He's really hurt by RFK. He's hitting .214 at home and has slugged just .369.

    Matt Chico: Would you believe that he leads the team in Innings Pitched? He has improved his command, a bit, and is just off the league average pace for strike% and first-pitch strikes. But despite that, when you walk nearly 5 a game and allow 1.6 homers per game, you're going to be an ineffective pitcher.

    Mike Bacsik: Six shutout innings is six shutout innings, but when you only K one batter, it's likely not a skill you can repeat with regularity. But, hey, if he can pitch a season at Tucson with an ERA under 3, there's no reason he can't pitch a season with an ERA under 6 at RFK, right? Yeah, we have low standards!

    Micah Bowie: Left-handed batters are still smacking him around: .382/ .389/ .441. Thankfully, he's held righties to a .171 average. I wonder if they'll try to trade him, or if they'll hold on to him since he's under team control for a few years (~3 years of service time)

    Jason Simontacchi: He's kind of a fun pitcher to watch, although opposing teams probably enjoy it a bit more. Based on his K/BB/HR numbers, he's actually been a bit unlucky. He's had bad luck with runners left on, and his BABIP is over .360, both of which should improve.

    Levale Speigner: I get hives watching this guy. He's sporting a scary .67 K/BB ratio. Is it wrong of me to want him to get injured so they can stash him on the DL the way the Twins have with Alejandro Machado?

    Chad Cordero: Since his return, he's pitched 5 scoreless innings while striking out five batters. Athletes are humans too, and with the razor-thin margin (mentally and physically) between success and failure, these things come into play, even if we can't quantify it at the time. When we pick our heart surgeons, we'd pick the one not going through the messy divorce, right?

    Jon Rauch: Since he filled in for Cordero, he's pitched 8 innings and allowed 4 runs, although those came in two games. There are a few warning signs with him, though. His K rate is down nearly 2 per game from last year and his BABIP is lower than it was, but at least he doesn't walk anyone...well, most of the time.

    Winston Abreu: He's certainly got a live arm and a pretty good strikeout pitch. I just worry a bit about his control. Still, for a middle reliever, we could certainly do worse.

    Jesus Colome: Do you s'pose he's sick of hearing the "Jesus Saves" joke? No, probably not. Jim Bowden has always had a knack for finding a cheap and passable bullpen, turning over raw materials to craftsmen pitching coaches, and it seems like Colome is this year's Carrasco.

    Ray King: Poor Fat Ray. He's done his job, getting lefties out and holding them to a .200 batting average. It's just that the demands placed on relievers by crappy starting pitching has meant that he's faced more righties (.393 batting average), making his numbers look worse than they would be on a good team.

    Saul Rivera: I kinda like Saul. He just sorta goes about his job, doing it very well without anyone really noticing what a good job he's doing, which is all you could really hope for from a low-paid middle reliever. It's those 6/7 inning guys who keep crappy teams like ours in games.

    Billy Traber: What does the dude have to do to buy a start? The team needs SP, so they pick anyone and everyone except for the guy with the most recent experience as a starting pitcher. Sure, he sucked as a SP, but he could at least get the team to teh 5th occasionally, right?

    Charlie, Can You Hear Me?

    From DCRTV:
    DCRTV hears that Washington Post Radio is eliminating the "Nats At Night" overnight replay of each day/evening's Washington Nationals game. Come 6/1, Bonneville-operated talker WTWP will return to its regularly scheduled overnight programming, which includes DC-based Jim Bohannon's show

    I remember reading that the TV ratings on Channel 20 were terrible back in '05, when there was actually something to be excited. I wonder what they're like now.

    Certainly this is a pretty good indication that nobody's willing to stomach bad baseball twice in one night.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    I Feel Robbed

    I saw Felipe Lopez' Grand Slam. I smiled... a little bit. And that was it. No sheer joy. No running around pumping my fists, doing that little dance of glee I do when I think nobody's looking.

    I dunno. I guess that's the faustian bargain I made this year. The losses won't kill me, but the wins won't thrill me.

    Is it worth it though? Doesn't that kill half of what being a fan is?

    I read this, and I can feel his excitement (must be THE CAPS!!!). But I don't share. I did last year. And I did in '05. But not this year. A win's better than a loss, but... meh. Just another game.

    But why? Is it just because we knew going in that they wouldn't have any chance of competing. "The PLAN!" requires us to suffer for Uncle Teddy's bottom line the fruits of the future, so did I just write off the season?

    The mantra in the offseason was "If they don't care about '07, why should I?"

    Maybe I took that a little too much to heart.

    Nats win. That's great and all, but...

    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.

    7 Down, Some More To Go

    Well, that went better than expected... results wise, at least. Another week, another set of pitcher's injuries, as we're about one more bad week from seeing if Ryan Church can give us six strong innings on the mound. The Nats went 4-3 this week, finishing up 7-3 on a homestand, probably the high-water mark of the season. It felt good, and I actually got excited about a game or two for the first time this season. I guess the losing hadn't numbed everything.

    Nats Record: 4-3
    Overall: 16-28, but 30/30 in baseball, .5 behind the Royals, who were just as hot as the Nats.
    Expected Record: 54-108, a 3 win 'improvement' over last week, and 10 wins over the last two weeks.
    Runs Scored: 24 (3.4/g); 142 overall, last in the NL -- one behind the Cardinals and 29 behind the next team. We're winning, but the offense still sucks chrome off a tailpipe.
    Runs Allowed: 25 (3.6/g); tied for 11th, up 3 spots from last week. It's been quite good lately, but remember 1) offense is down throughout the league and 2) we still play in an extreme pitcher's park.

    What's Good?
    1) Nook! A .333 BA, a double, a triple, and three steals? This might be the best week of his career!
    2) Chad Cordero! It's amazing what having a clear head will do for a player. Four innings, one hit, three Ks, no runs.
    3) Southpaws! Let's hear it for those crazy, genetic anomalies! Traber: 1.69 ERA; Bacsik: 0.00 ERA; Chico: 4.50 ERA; Bowie: 3.38 ERA; King: 2.28 ERA; Tommy John: too many to count.

    What's Bad?
    1) The infield. Batting averages: Zimmerman .222; Lopez .200; Guzman .250; Fick .100; Schneider .056. They combined for just 8 XBH.
    2) Austin Kearns. .087 BA, and 8 Ks. He looked truly lost.
    3) Jerome Williams. Oy. The less said, the better.

    Game O' The Week
    I guess that Nook's adventures on Sunday take the cake, huh? Missed the rally? Here ya go. Have a small-ball fetish? Here's some hot video for ya.

    Wanna know how good Zimmerman is at third? Listen to Bob Carpenter nonchalant this play, then watch the replay and see how far Zimmerman ranged to get the ball, and watch the athletic play he had to make to fire the ball across his body to first. Just great defense, and Carpenter made it seem like a routine play... which it is to Zimmerman.

    Weekly Awards
    MVP: Dmitri Young. The old guy can't play defense, but when you bat .500 and slug .800, who cares?

    Cy Young: Jason Bergmann. His near no-no and resulting 8 IP with 10Ks will probably be the pitching highlight of the season. Get well soon!

    LVP: Austin Kearns or Brian Schneider. Take your pick. Sum them up, and they have a .506 OPS, which would make Guzman blush.

    Joe Horgan Award: Oh, Jerome. Don't get well soon.

    Weekly Whips:
    5/14: It wasn't a no-no, but we'll remember Bergmann's start anyway.
    5/15: Nobody deserves it. How 'bout Cordero just for not falling off the mound?
    5/16: Ryan Church had the big hit, but none of it would've mattered if Ryan Zimmerman didn't do what he did.
    5/17: Felipe Lopez missed a cycle by about 400 feet.
    5/18: Dmitri Young's big homer got them back into the game.
    5/19: Mike Bacsik, who endorses, gave us 6 improbably shutout innings.
    5/20: All hail Teh Nook!

    What's Ahead?
    On the road again! They start out with four in Jim Bowden's old haunt, Cincinnati. It's reunion time for 3/4 of the team. Former Reds affiliated with the Nats: Bowden, Rijo, Boone, Larkin from the front office; Dmitri Young, Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns, Ryan Wagner from the roster; D'Angelo Jimenez, Brandon Larson, Brandon Watson from the minors.

    With the specter of the Majewski grievance hanging over the team, and the Reds in a freefall -- they're just a game ahead of us in the standings, it should be an interesting four games. If our patchwork pitching can hold up, who knows. I'm just not counting on it.

    Then it's off to St. Louis to face a team that's as pitiful offensively as we are. You'll be able to hear the joy in Bob Carpenter's voice, no doubt. Did you know he used to work for St. Louis? Yeah, who'dve guessed?

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    It's Teh SmAllBall!1!!1

    Here's where I'm torn.

    The analytical side of me looks at Nook Logan and sees a fifth outfielder -- a defensive replacement or a pinch runner.

    The fanboy in me sees what he did in the third inning when he reached on a bunt single, stole second, stole third, and scored on a bounding single past a drawn-in infield and drools.

    The analytical side notes that he needed to spot that bunt perfectly, and he still barely reached against a pretty mediocre defensive third baseman, and that side also points out that he's been thrown out on 2/3 of his attempts to bunt for a hit in his career.

    The fanboy in me loves watching speed rule the day and was impressed at the ballsiness of taking two bags on back-to-back pitches.

    The analytical side in me would point out that the steal of third was gravy, and that if you believe in the fallacy of the pre-determined outcome (ie that everything that happens after an event would still happen if things prior change), then he'd have scored from second without the risk of the steal of third.

    The fanboy loves to see manufactured runs.

    The analytical side knows that runs are runs and that using one-run strategies sometimes slightly increases your chance of scoring one run, but hurts your chances of scoring multiple runs, and that everything needs to go perfectly -- as it did in the third -- for the strategy to work, and would point to the caught stealings and runners stranded on third as counterbalances to one happy, fuzzy memory.

    Eh, but whatever. I'll just enjoy the win. The fanboy and the analytical side can both do that, at least.

  • Alternatively, read Federal Baseball's take including Bonus CF speculation!

  • Friday, May 18, 2007

    We Shall Fight In the Fields and In the Streets

    Ah, it's that time of year again, the time when RFK's empty lots fill with pick-up trucks and late '80s rust-covered Cutlass Sierras. Everywhere you look, you see mullets, stretched-out tanktops, and filthy-mouthed urchins wearing #8 T-shirts that've been washed so many times -- once a week for the last 14 years (hand-me-downs from their siblings) -- that the rubberized print has cracked and peeled. Yes, kids, Baltimore is in town. Hide the women. Hide the children. And, yeah, you probably want to hide the men, too.

    Oh, there are many reasons to hate that foul, beastly, armpit of a city. Lest I work myself up into a lather before I've had my second cup o' coffee, I'll just send along this from the old Capitol Punishment archives, an oldie, but still appropriate.

    And lest that's not enough to sate thine appetite, remember on this Preakness weekend, that Baltimore is the city that KILLED BARBARO!!!!!!!!! And if you're the kind of heartless bastard whose blood doth not run cold at those words, first I'd like to thank you, Mr. Defense Contractor, for the hard work you do supplying our nation's military, and second, I'd point out that Baltimore is the city that KILLED BARBARO!!!!!!!! leading thousands of people to produce schlock like this. And this. And this. And this.

    And if that's not enough to get you to realize what a scourge, a blight, a plague that Baltimore is, nothing will. And I weep for your soul.

  • If that's not enough, this headline seems especially appropriate today.

  • Thursday, May 17, 2007

    What Next?

    I hope Uncle Ted clipped the 2-for-1 MRI coupon in last Sunday's Post. Jason Bergmann reported elbow soreness and went for one. No damage, but they'll hold him out of his next start, which is scheduled for Saturday.

    The WaPo link above indicates that there was fluid, which is usually just a sign of general inflammation. Most likely (and yeah, I'm wishing here), it's just something like tendinitis. If that's the case, rest usually solves that. It is, however, generally a warning sign that either he's working too much, or that there's something in his motion that's irritating the elbow/arm.

    OMG has been sounding the warning signs on Bergmann's workload for a while now, most recently right after his last start (good timing!). It's an interesting point; he was mostly a reliever in the minors, and now he's been asked to carry a pretty big workload. He threw 110 pitches Monday night, and although I didn't track it, a large number of them were breaking pitches -- his slider was deadly. It's no wonder that he'd be experiencing some arm stiffness after that.

    So hopefully, it's just something that needs some rest.

    If not? Gulp.

    As it is, Micah Bowie gets the emergency start on Sunday. Bowie hasn't started a game since 1999, and it's likely he'll get the Speigner "please give me 4 innings" treatment. (It's also a pain, because Bowie pitches s-l-o-w-l-y, making us long for the up-tempo pacing of Tony Armas)

    It's going to be an interesting decision, because the Nats are bumping up against the limits of the 40-man roster. They've got a few more players they could slide to the 60-day DL, like Alex Escobar or Mike O'Connor. Joel Hanrahan and Emiliano Fruto are on the 40-man, but both are on the DL for Columbus. Mike Hinckley is in AA, but he's been knocked around for 3 straight starts (perhaps he's injured, too?).

    Are we at the point where we'd consider bringing in a crapbag pitcher like El Gordo Ponson for a spot start or two? Man, I hope not.

    It'll also be interesting to see what they'd do with the 25-man, especially if they don't DL Bergmann -- as it seems like they're trying to avoid. Does someone like Saul Rivera get sent down because he's one of the few with options left, despite his long streak of scoreless IP? Does Winny Abreu say Sayonara? We'll find out!

  • It's a rare day when Federal Baseball makes the same points I make in fewer words.

  • Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    More On Page

    Svrluga, in his weekly chat, takes a question about hitting coach Mitchell Page:
    22046: Barry - what can you tell us about the status of Mitchell Page?

    Barry Svrluga: I have not talked to Page since he took his leave (I was off when it happened), but intend to do so soon. I am told he's not expected back soon. He told that he is having a health issue. I am told by other people that he has, in fact, had a relapse of his alcoholism.

    I'm sad to hear that. I hope he get get his health AND his life together. He seems like he's a great teacher, and plenty of the players seemed to speak highly of his instruction.

    A Year's Supply of Rice-A-Roni

    Thanks for playing, Jerome. Enjoy your parting gift.

    He's on the DL with a strained rotator cuff, which was hurt, no doubt, while whipping his head back to see how far the pitched ball he released was going to land from the plate. No big loss.

    In his place comes up old friend Billy Traber. He needed to be added to the 40-man roster, so the Nats shifted Nick Johnson to the 60-day Disabled List (which doesn't count towards the 40-man roster).

    Williams was set to pitch on Sunday. Presumably Traber takes his spot.

    Bergmann, Speigner, Chico, Traber, Simontacchi: A Rotation For The Ages.

    Buy your tickets now; you'll get priority for the new stadium!!!

    Blind Item Guessing Game

    Which high-powered sports executive known for mingling with the commoners finally "Braved" the upper deck last night, only to stumble on the steep stairs due to his unfamiliarity with lofty territory, something he certainly didn't "PLAN!" on?

    Hey, How's That Ramon Ortiz Signing Working Out?

    That well?
    It took a month, but the Twins and their fans are now getting a good, long look at the real Ortiz. For as good as he is and as many mini-miracles as he's worked, not even Rick Anderson can turn a horrible 34-year-old pitcher into something other than a horrible 34-year-old pitcher. Ortiz has lost four straight decisions and sports a 12.27 ERA over his last three outings, all of them losses.

    When asked about last night's disaster, Anderson talked as if Ortiz was temporarily broken, no doubt thinking that a few tweaks can turn him right back into the guy who pitched well to begin the season. That won't happen, because that pitcher doesn't actually exist. The good starts that came from Ortiz last month were the "broken" part, much like if Shaquille O'Neal somehow rattled off a dozen straight made free throws.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    You Needed That

    Admit it. You did. You needed that. You needed to be slapped aside the head with some reality. You needed some perspective. You were getting a little too cocky. A little too big for your too-tight britches.

    I know you looked at the standings and figured out how many you'd be back of the Braves with a sweep. I know you looked at the standings and figured out how far back we were in the Wild Card. I know you played that what-if game, and figured that .500 was within our grasp.

    That's why you needed to see Jerome Williams stink up the park. That's why you needed to see batter after batter weakly tap Tim Hudson's sinker in the soft turf. That's why you needed to see the never-ending cavalcade of relievers.

    We're not a good team.

    Sure, we beat the hell out of the Marlins, but that was a team that was under .500 last year (they were the darlings of '06, but they were sub-.500 darlings), and they're worse this year. And sure, we beat John Smoltz and the Braves, but it took a near no-no to do it, and then we barely squeaked out the win, by the barest of margins.

    So deflate your puffy head. Take a deep breath. Come back out of the clouds.

    We can be fun at times, but...

    We're not a good team.

    Other Great Starts

    Bill James invented a junk stat -- a fun little gimmick -- called "Game Scores" to try to assess how dominant a pitcher is. It's a pretty basic concept, and it doesn't really tell anything per se, but it does sorta tell how dominant a pitcher is.

    Here's the formula: Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

    An average outing is about 50. Anything above that's pretty good. 70 is a solid start. 80 is a dominant start. And 90 is one that you'll remember for a few years.

    Kerry Wood holds the record, when he had that one-hit, 20K complete game a number of years back.

    So where does Jason Bergmann's outing rank with the Nats? Pretty damn good, actually.

    He's tied for the fourth-best start since the team moved to Washington.

    1) 92: 8/4/05 -- John Patterson struck out 13 Dodger in a four-hit shutout, a game many will remember for Brad Wilkerson's grand slam.

    2) 88: 8/15/06 -- Pedro Astacio threw the most improbable game of the year, the Nationals' first CG of the year in a 5-0 2-hitter against the Braves. He struck out 5 batters and threw just 89 pitches.

    3) 84: 4/15/06 -- John Patterson, before his injury, gave us a glimpse of how dominant he could be when he was on. He matched his 13 Ks but allowed a run in his 8 innings -- the run coming on back-to-back doubles in the fifth, two of the three hits he allowed.

    4) 83: 9/16/05 -- John Patterson didn't know that the season would slip away over the next two games, but his CG 5-1 win over Jake Peavy and the Padres was pure clutch. He struck out 6, and allowed just three hits, while lowering his ERA to an amazing 2.65.

    4) 83: 5/14/07 -- Jason Bergmann was dominant, but he didn't go the distance, knocking a few points of his potential score.

    5) 82: 7/19/05 -- John Patterson started the 9th inning with a shutout, but after giving up his third hit, Frank gave him the hook. 8 strikeouts in 8 innings, with just three hits allowed. Those were the good times, weren't they?

    You're probably thinking that there's one missing -- Ramon Ortiz' near no-no from last Labor Day. It's close, but definitely no cigar. He finished with a game score of 78 because he allowed a run, walked three batters, only struck out five, and eventually allowed two hits. A great start, for sure. A great memory, definitely. But it's not, all things considered, one of the five best.

    More On Bergmann

    Federal Baseball has an excellent look at Jason Bergmann -- where he's been, and what's different statistically this season.

    He argues that his prior MLB performance was a bit unlucky, and that he's been a bit lucky this year in terms of his Batting Average on Balls In Play.

    It's worth reading and considering.

    One thing he points out is the disparity of defense behind each of the Nats 5 primary pitchers:
    Pitcher DER
    Bergmann .820
    Hill .764
    Chico .667
    Williams .756
    Patterson .691

    Combined with the halving of his line-drive rate, there are a few red flags on the Cy Young Express.

    But... I wonder how much of that is luck (certainly some) and how much of it is the quality of his stuff. Like I said last night, he's inducing a LOT of weak fly balls to the outfield. When they do make contact with his curve, it's generally a popup (his homers per flyball is waaaaay down). And when they make contact with the slider, it's a weak tapper in the infield.

    We'd certainly expect that line-drive rate to increase a bit. Even the best pitchers have a hard time keeping their rates that low. But as long as he keeps the strikeouts coming, and keeps the homers down -- which were high in the past, I think, because he was always behind hitters -- he'll be an effective pitcher. Maybe not 2.76 effective, but if he finishes the year under 3.75, it's an excellent year.

    Casto Yo-Yo

    To make room for Jerome Williams -- who's being activated off the DL -- the Nats sent never-used OFer Kory Casto to Triple-A.

    Screw the plan, and all that.

    Kory hasn't been used, and the team would rather see non-players like Robert Fick, Ron Belliard and Dmitri Young fritter away ABs at first than let a semi-young potentially useful player like Casto have a chance to learn and grow.

    But, if that's what they've decided to do, sending him down is the right move. He needs regular playing time more than anything. Last week, he came to the plate just twice. You can't do that to a kid.

    Another Ringing Endorsement

    ...for our favorite GM, Jim Bowden.
    "You get branded," [Brendan] Harris said. "A guy like Jim Bowden tells you you're one thing, and if you were there before he got there you weren't part of the solution; you were part of the problem. Not just for me, but for everybody. I felt like I almost lost a year in my career over there. I'm happy to be out of there and given a fresh start over here."
    Thanks to the anonymous google maniac...

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Luck Is The Residue of Design

    When I had my brush with greatness with Stan Kasten, one of the first things out of his mouth was strangely not a curse word or a threat of a lawsuit, but a quote from Branch Rickey. It wasn't the one that titles this entry, but that one's just as pertinent as I think about Jason Bergmann.

    For the '07 Nationals, Jason Bergmann was an afterthought. And it's sheer feckin' luck that he's in the rotation.

    Bergmann was absolutely terrible in his 2 seasons with the Nats, with a complete inability to control any of his pitches. He'd fall behind batters, and walk the ones he wasn't throwing 2-0 meatballs to. And looking at his minor league stats, it wasn't a surprising outcome. He had moments of excellence, but his numbers look like the numbers of any other hundreds of hard-throwing, no-control minor leaguers. He'd strike a bunch out, but he'd walk a bunch, and it seemed like he was surviving more on the quality of his stuff than actual command of his pitches: he was striking out batters because 19-year old kids crapped their pants when they saw his slider, not because he was painting the corner.

    While there are hundreds of minor leaguers with a similar profile, there's something terrific about them. If they're getting by on the quality of their stuff, if they ever do find some control and command, bingo! You've got a quality pitcher.

    And that's what we've seen with Jason Bergmann.

    Something clicked after that first start of the year. Jim Bowden likely thinks it was his much publicized shouting match, where he challenged Bergmann mano y mano. But more likely, it was a quiet mechanical fix, something tiny he's doing different. Because not only his Bergmann finally harnessing his pitches, he's commanding the spot.

    Look at how he handled the Braves tonight. It was a thing of beauty. He keeps that low-90s fastball up higher in the zone. It's not overpowering on its own, but you can see the late tail on it, tugging it away from bats at the last minute.

    Then he throws that mid-80s slider, which zipped away from right-handed batters, rolling further and further away. On the rare time a batter made contact, it was a slow tapper foul. When it's away and had as much movement as it had last night, it's practically unhittable.

    His other main pitch is a sharp little curveball. It's not a huge 12-6 break, more of a short, quick break that comes in in the mid-70s. He pounds that pitch low in the zone. But to the batters, who have to be wary of that high, tailing fastball, it starts out high like the #1 does. They have to swing early in case it is, leading them to pop the curve, as they slow and drag the bat through the zone, hoping to catch a piece of the much-slower pitch.

    When all three are moving, and he's spotting each of those three, batters have no chance. Some of the swings the Braves got tonight were laughable. They missed the fastball by a foot. Or they lunged and flailed at a slider a foot off the plate. It was a pleasure to watch.

    But all of it is because of luck.

    Were it not for Jason Simontacchi's groin, we wouldn't be hear tonight, happy with his win. Jason Bergmann was all set to go to the minors to start the year because he had options, and because the Nats had too many warm bodies that they wanted to protect. Remember, too, that his ERA was over 5 in the spring.

    NOBODY saw this coming. Nobody.

    If Simontacchi's healthy, Bergmann's in Columbus, and then how would things be?

    Would he have found things on his own? Or did he need the combo of Jim Bowden's foot up his ass and Randy St. Claire's watchful eyes picking apart his moves? You've gotta believe it's the latter, right?

    It's to the Nationals credit that they've apparently developed a legitimate starting pitcher, and 5 great starts out of 6 chances makes me think he's turned a corner, and not just in a hot streak.

    But we owe as much to dumb feckin' luck as anything. So as you're reflecting on how great this game was, give thanks to Simontacchi's groin. With a healthier groin, who knows how much we'd suck?

    hey.... wait a minute!

    Nothing To See Here...

    If you're near a TV, you might want to turn the game on... or listen to the radio.

    I can't tell you why. Onay ItterHay by AsonJay ErgmannBay rougThay IxSay.

    (I fear for SBF from Nats 320's personal well-being. He's going to strain something hitting his Caps Lock key if this keeps up)

    • ONay ItterHay RougThay IxSay. ErgmannBay got lucky on that list pitch to Ndruwaay!
    • Nevermind! Screw you, Manny Acta! This one's on you! You CAN'T make defensive substitutions in a no-hitter! You just can't! Thanks for ruining it, Manny. I hope you can't sleep tonight!
    • ReathBay! ReathBay!
    • OK, Jason. 5 Dominant starts out of six chances? I believe! I believe! Jesus has saved me and I believe!

    6 Down, 3/4 To Go

    Last week, I looked at this past week's schedule and thought that two wins would be a success. We outdid that by one, but it sure feels like we were better than that, doesn't it? Sweepee then Sweeper; it's the order that matters, at least for our psyche.

    Nats Record: 3-3, our best week yet.
    Overall: 12-25, 29/30 in baseball, .5 game ahead of the Royals.
    Expected Record: 51-111. We picked up 7 "wins" versus expected simply by not having our brains beaten in every game.
    Runs Scored: 24 (4/game); 118 overall (3.2/game), next-to-last in the NL (Thanks, Cardinals!)
    Runs Allowed: 19 (3.2/game); 180 overall (4.9/ game), 14/16 in the NL.

    If you're curious, if we take those first disastrous 9 games out of the equation (54 runs allowed), we've allowed 126 runs in 28 games, 4.5 runs per game, which would put us about 8th in the league. (Of course, if you took 9 terrible games out of every team...)

    And if you're really, really curious, plugging that runs allowed total into the Pythagorean formula, (using our current runs/game offensive pace) gives us a record of 56-106, or to more directly compare, the same 12-25 record we have now. That seems funky to me, but we'll pretend it's a rounding error. ;)

    What's Good?
    1) A Little Bit Of Power! Through six weeks, the Nats have hit just 17 homers: a 79-homer pace. This week, they hit four of those, including two by Felipe Lopez. Throw in six doubles and a triple, and it was a (comparative!) orgy of extra-base hits.

    2) GUZMANIA!1111! Wow, where did our old slap-hitting Guzman go? Even when he made outs this week, he was driving the ball. .333/ .385/ .417 isn't a bad start!

    3) Starting Pitching! Simontacchi got cuffed around a bit -- Sunday, it was bloop after bloop in the sixth inning -- but other than him, the starters combined to allow 5 earned in 4 starts. And with our offense being what it is, starters went 1-1 despite this.

    What's Bad?
    1) Centerfield. A strength for so long with Church, it's a black hole of suck, with Logan and Langerhans combining for four hits -- all singles -- one walk and three double plays (all by Logan).

    2) Tony Batista. Just 'cause.

    3) Kory Casto. He looks increasingly overmatched. And he had only 1 AB this entire week. Why is he up? He can't learn to hit unless he gets regular playing time, and Acta seems intent on starting Robert Fick -- who in fairness had a pretty good week .364/ .462/ .455 -- every chance he gets. If Acta's not going to play Casto, he needs to go to the minors.

    Game O' The Week
    When one game has a stand-up inside-the-park homer AND a 9th-inning rally capped by a walkoff Grand Slam, it's gotta win, right? (What I love about the Slam video is the crowd reaction; there is none! A game-winning slam, and you can't hear a thing!)

    Weekly Awards
    MVP: Rumors of Brian Schneider's demise were greatly exaggerated. Sure, he's basically an opposite-field singles hitter now -- at least til opposing teams adjust -- but if you're batting .421 as he did, you can live with it!

    Cy Young: Sure, Shawn Hill had 5 no-hit innings, but the hidden gem of the week was by Saul Rivera, who pitched in 5 of the 6 games this week without allowing a run. With 7 base runners allowed, he wasn't sharp, but in Cordero's absence, he stepped up.

    LVP: I'd give it to .192-batting Felipe Lopez, but those two homers and two doubles make up for a lot of outs. In the absence of that, our cleanup hitter was terrible, driving in only two runs. Of course when Ryan Church bats .200/ .333/ .250 and loses a flyball in the sun, it's a rough week.

    Joe Horgan Award: Bowie and Speigner weren't sharp. And he probably deserves better, but Jason Simontacchi didn't have a particularly great week with a 5.56 ERA. He did enough to win yesterday, though, despite some horrid defense. He also had the play of the game yesterday, in the Nats big inning. With 1 out, and Felipe Lopez batting, he slid HARD into second base, completely taking out Dan Uggla with an upright full-body slide, which prevented him from making the DP turn. Lopez was safe, got an RBI, and the inning continued for Cristian Guzman, who hit a 2-run triple. That small play was the difference in the game.

    Weekly Whips:
    5/7: Matt Chico finally had a quality start; it's not his fault that Dmitri Young left 6 runners on.
    5/8: Felipe Lopez battled, hitting a homer and driving in two.
    5/9: What does Jason Bergmann have to do to get a win? 6 innings and one run should do it. But with this team???
    Yeah, it was only five innings, but Shawn Hill had five no-hit innings.
    5/12: As the astute commenter put it, Ryan Zimmerman now leads the league in 9th-inning RBI against the Marlins. I'd take it a step further; I bet he's the career leader.
    5/13: Praise Jesus! Every time that guy plays, he does something.

    What's Ahead?
    We've got 4 ahead with the Braves, including the much-awaited Bergmann/Smoltz rematch. We'll also see the return of Southeast Jerome Williams (hopefully he can improve on that 0-4, 6.11 ERA) and an emergency start by Levale Speigner, who has never pitched more than 3 innings. He's walked 12 batters in 14+ innings. Maybe that's why.

    After that, the Bloworioles come to town, bringing their disease-laden fans to town. If you go next week, bring some baby wipes to sterilize your seat; who knows what kind of communicable disease you could catch.

    Seven games? What's your best guess? 3-4 wouldn't be terrible, right?

    Sunday, May 13, 2007


    What'd I miss?

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    A Few Quick Thoughts On A Great Game

    Woo! A win! We only need to win every game between now and Saturday the 26th -- the 6th game of our next road trip -- and we're back at .500!!!

  • Today's game was a combo of two factors:

    1) The bats HAD to wake up at one point or another -- although the increasingly terrible Bob Carpenter's ridiculous assertion that Lenny Harris was the difference was laughable.

    2) The Marlins have a terrible infield defense. Think about how many of those hits we had were 10-hoppers through the infield.

  • Be excited about the hits, but realize that our biggest weakness was still on display yesterday: zero power. 15 hits and they only managed 6 runs? When you don't ever hit homers, and even doubles are a relatively rare occurrence, it takes three hits to score a run. More often than not, when we're playing a crisper defense, that's not going to happen.

  • Don't let Nook Logan's 2-4 fool you. He grounded into two double plays. The final hit he had was the only "solid" hit he had, a line-drive flare over the second baseman on a hanger.

  • Anything we get out of Cristian Guzman is gravy at this point. He had a decent night with the bat, and the difference in his swing is refreshing. Two things though: 1) His beard scares me; 2) What happened to that 15 pounds he supposedly lost?

  • Shawn Hill has been complaining of forearm pain all year, so seeing him leave with an injury -- elbow problems -- isn't surprising. He fell in love with his slurve -- it breaks larger like a curve, but runs more horizontal like a curve; what is it? -- and threw that many more times than I'm used to seeing. Breaking pitches put the most stress on arms. I wonder if the number he threw contributed to the pain?

    They didn't find any obvious structural damage, but he's going in for an MRI to get a better look. With a little luck, it's just a spot of tendinitis. Although with his Patterson-like arm history...

  • Brian Schneider continues to sputter to life. I'm glad to see that, because he's a better player than he's shown over the last two years. A good defensive catcher who hits .260, slugs 10-15 homers and takes a walk is a pretty valuable thing. Still, I'd like to see more PT for Flores against some tough lefties -- Does Olsen qualify?

    He was robbed of a homer late in the game, when Reggie Abercrombie leaped up and over the fence to snare one of his flies. After the ball fell into the glove, Abercrombie snapped the glove back towards fair territory to ensure it wasn't a homer, but, in the process, smacked the glove against the fence, spiking the ball down to the ground. At least Schneider got a double out of it.

  • Ronnie Belliard cannot play first base. Short, stubby legs, and a small demeanor mean he can't stretch enough to get an extra split second on close throws, and also hinder him from reaching those high and wide throws while keeping the foot on the beg. He was charged with an error on a drop, and missed a play or two that a better 1B -- do the Nats really have one? -- might've gotten.

    Supposedly Nick Johnson took some grounders at first. Get healthy!

  • Ryan Church looked a little shaky on a few plays in left. He was replaced late in the game by Ryan Langerhans, who looked anything but shaky on a terrific diving catch deep to the gap in left-center, that would've scored two runs had it fallen in.

  • Lots to be excited about. But lots of expectations that should be tempered, too.

    As we've learned time and time again, you're never as bad as you look when you're losing, and you're never as good as you look when you're winning.

    Still, for one night, we looked dammmmmn purty.

  • Want more? Check out the What to Read section on the right. Recaps Galore!

  • Friday, May 11, 2007

    Mitchell Page Out

    The Nats have given Hitting Coach Mitchell Page a leave of absence for the most Washingtonian of reasons, "personal reasons." Presumably, he, like so many others, wants to spend more time with his family. In his place comes former Red and (you'll undoubtedly hear this 42 times tonight) Pinch-Hit King, Lenny Harris.

    I know nuttin', and there's likely a good chance he's dealing with something personal, but I suspect this is their way of saying adieu to Page for his poor performance. Given his past history with alcoholism, perhaps they wanted to do something nice and keep him in the family, even if it's more of a distant cousin in Albuquerque sorta thing now.

    I don't think that Page can take the blame for what's gone on this year. The Nats are running some mediocre players out there, and a few of the key guys have been slumping -- and he's certainly not responsible for NJ's injury or Soriano's disappearance.

    My impression over a short time was that he was an effective hitting coach, and the Nationals, as a team, improved last year, especially in terms of their batting eyes and approaches. I'll be interested to see what Lenny Harris espouses.

    At the very least, he's catching a team that's likely to improve offensively over the next few weeks as the law of averages plays catch-up.

  • Our good friend Bill Ladson fills in more details.

    He's having some health problems, including some numbness. It's not related to his problem with alcoholism.

    And he's likely to not rejoin the team.

  • Stack 'Em Up

    30+ games in, and we've finally got a big enough sample size to get a handle on some of these performances, and to see how the Nats are doing. It's a weird year and tough to assess some of these performances because offense is way down around the league.

    The average team scores 4.37 runs per game. Last year, it was 4.76. So a typical night at the ballpark, and there's nearly a run per game less. Last year, the average team hit 1.09 HR per game; this year, it's just .86. So average pitchers seem better than they are because we haven't adjusted our expectations. And bad hitters seem worse than they are for the same reason.

    So let's compare the Nats to their compatriots.

    First, a quick note about the numbers. I like to use average, on-base and slugging as quick proxies for offense. They're simple enough, and they tell you 90% of everything you need to know about a player's offensive performance. Keep in mind, though, that these aren't adjusted for park, and RFK is the second or third toughest park for hitters, so a Nat could be worse than the average in the numbers, but really be an average or better performer. (That sentence didn't really make sense!)

    CATCHER            AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Brian Schneider .235 .330 .316 .647
    Jesus Flores .350 .435 .500 .935
    Total .254 .348 .347 .695
    NL AVE .259 .323 .379 .702

    All things considered, catching hasn't been a problem. Brian Schneider was terrible early on, but has hit well of late. And Jesus Flores' hot hitting in limited playing time has offset a lot of Schneid's suck. Throw in the very good defense by both, and catcher -- gasp! -- has been an asset for the team.

    FIRST              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Dmitri Young .221 .322 .385 .707
    Robert Fick .313 .450 .438 .888
    Total .222 .327 .373 .700
    NL AVE .270 .361 .437 .798

    What jumps out at me about this isn't so much the Nats' weakness -- we expected that -- but how poorly NL 1B are hitting as a group. (Thanks, in part, to the slumping Pujols!) The Nats 1B have hit about as well as the average NL catcher, and they've fielded pretty poorly. Over a full season, they're losing 4 wins or so to a team with just an average 1B, and likely 6-8 wins or more compared to what Nick Johnson could've performed had he been healthy.

    SECOND             AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Ron Belliard .278 .320 .348 .667
    Felipe Lopez .185 .214 .444 .659
    Total .264 .307 .368 .675
    NL AVE .265 .336 .417 .753

    Here's another spot where the Nats are losing big, although Felipe Lopez is sure to bring this up with his OBP contributions -- the .214 represents just his performance at 2B. Defensively, the jury is still out. Belliard seemed to be decent, and was especially adept at turning the DP. Lopez has always been spotty (read: terrible) with his footwork, and he'll get an incomplete for now.

    THIRD              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Ryan Zimmerman .255 .314 .348 .661
    NL AVE .255 .335 .393 .728

    If he keeps hitting the way he's been hitting over the last 20 games, we'll be fine here. Much has been made of the number of errors, and while 7 is high, remember that 2 of those have come on throws from the outfield, and one clearly should have been charged to Ron Belliard, not him.

    SHORT              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Felipe Lopez .270 .331 .330 .661
    Cristian Guzman .143 .200 .143 .343
    Josh Wilson .000 .294 .000 .294
    Total .234 .314 .284 .598
    NL AVE .269 .333 .413 .746

    No light can escape from this black hole. Just note that they're getting worse shortstop play this year than they did in '05, and that's without factoring in the defense. These guys have combined for 12 errors and a .915 fielding percentage, which probably has been unseen on a MLB level since the aughts. With Guzman manning the position for the time being, the team total will probably climb, but has NO chance of being close to league average. Let's hope he starts playing Gold Glove defense -- something he's never really done in his career.

    LEFT               AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Kory Casto .130 .167 .174 .341
    Chris Snelling .200 .368 .333 .702
    Mike Restovich .111 .158 .111 .269
    Ryan Church .167 .375 .167 .542
    Total .150 .260 .213 .473
    NL AVE .284 .367 .476 .843

    Just looking at this gives me an aneurysm. Words have not been invented to describe how terrible Nationals left fielders have been. That team total is so terrible, it'd be laughable were I not crying.

    Using the quick and dirty Runs Created estimate, over 600 ABs, the Nats LFers would create 33 runs. The League Average LFer would create 104. That's about 7 wins below average! With Church taking over the position full time, this is a position that's sure to improve. But Church isn't going to push the Nats much above league average. He'll probably hit right around those league numbers, and should provide some plus defense, making him a slightly better-than-average player -- and about 8-9 wins better than what they're getting now.

    CENTER             AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Ryan Church .282 .388 .485 .874
    Total .288 .387 .475 .861
    NL AVE .258 .327 .398 .725

    Even if you think he's a terrible defensive CFer -- and the only problem I've ever had with him is on liners right at him -- he's the lone bright spot in the lineup. Factoring in the tough home park, he's well above average in CF, not that the Nats will accept that; We need more Nook11!!!1!

    RIGHT              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Austin Kearns .260 .324 .425 .749
    Total .268 .331 .428 .759
    NL AVE .266 .335 .407 .742

    His numbers alone don't look impressive, but he's better than average, in what must be a down year for RFers. We've seen the defense -- good positioning, nice range, and a strong, accurate arm. He's a net plus for the team.

    PHers              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
    Total .071 .156 .071 .228
    NL AVE .217 .313 .340 .653


  • It's easy to see where the holes are -- first, second, short, left. But it's not clear that the Nats have any sort of solution.

    First is going to continue to slog along as a net minus whether they play Fick, Young, Batista, Langerhans or Casto there. We'll just have to suck it up.

    Second and short are basically spoken for, though both are sure to improve relative to what the league has done. The same goes for left.

    This is a team that's getting substandard production out of four of the eight lineup spots, and there's little change for significant improvement. The bright side is that some of these performances have been so bad so far -- left field11?!?! -- that ANYTHING we get out of there is going to provide a ton of offense comparatively.

    With Schneider and Zimmerman coming on and improved production at 2B and LF, maybe this offense is about to snap out of its long, cold, dormant, deathly slumber?