Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm With StraStra


Next weekend, I'm celebrating my second anniversary.  Yes, not only did I find someone gullible enough to settle for me and my charming personality -- cause lord knows it's not for my looks or money -- she's stuck with me for two years.  Yay for all that.

Like a good husband, I scrambled around, trying to figure out what I could get her.  It's the cotton anniversary, but after last year's ream of Xerox paper didn't go well, I figured I'd buck tradition.

So that's where CoCo came in.  Like all the other hipsters, wannabe hipsters, hipster-haters, and wannabe hipster-haters in town, when word came that our favorite red-headed fired late night host was staging a road show, I jumped at the chance to pay for something I used to get for free, and would eventually get for free later. What else am I gonna do with that $200 anyway?

So CoCo's coming to town on June 8, and I'll be there in the front row.  Woo!

Then comes today.  As if Mike Rizzo weren't a loathsome enough personality, now we find out that Mr. Aura is a Jay Leno guy.  How else to explain it?  I hope he wakes up to a Masturbating Bear head in his bed tonight.

I won't see Strasburg's first start.  Looks like I won't see his second; he'll be ripping Manny Acta a new sphincter (thought I suspect we owe a debt of gratitude for Strasburg to Mr. Acta) in Cleveland.   Guess I better get my White Sox tickets soon, and start my own Strasburg Miniplan.

So come June 8, I'm with CoCo, not StraStra.  He better be fucking funny.

And I hope my wife loves me.

Nationals Reviewed: Eight Down, Enough!

Feel dispirited yet? I'm not. Yet that rosy glow from a month ago isn't quite as carmine as it once was. Yesterday's loss plopped the Nats back below .500. They did this by losing 4 of the 5 series they played (well, a tie with the Mets is as good as a loss), winning only against the Woeful O' f/k/a Blowrioles.

But it's that series win against the wO's that gives me hope.

We talked all spring training about how this train was doomed to Mannyville thanks to its ungodly schedule. Well, they survived it. A contender playing .500 against that schedule is still a contender.

On the right column, there's a list of the Nats' record against various teams this year. We've played 12 teams so far. Of those, only 3 (wO's, Brewers, Cubs) have come against teams at or within a handful of games of the division lead. With the exception of those 9 games, the Nats have basically faced a playoff contender every night.

And if you've watched the games, nibbling your nails to their cuticles, you certainly know they've played hard. They haven't always won. But when you're facing tough teams -- especially during this stretch, mostly on the road -- shit's gonna happen.

So what do we do now? We bust out '05-style on all the patsies coming up. Scroll down from that link and look who's coming up:

Houston? HAHAHAH
Pitsburgh? Enjoy Strasburg, suckers! Milledge: 3Ks
Cleveland? Heck of a job there, Manny
White Sox: They're 6 under!
Royals: If we miss Zach, I guarantee a sweep. If we get Greinke, I still like our chances!
Baltimore: HAHAHAH

There are 9 tough games in June: 3 hosting Cincy. 3 at Detroit. 3 at Atlanta.

Let's say they go 4-5 in those. That leaves 19 games against the dreck. What's a decent guess there? 13-6 would be tough, but fair, and reasonable. Hell, make it 12-7. That'd be a 16-12 month, putting us at 41-38... basically an 84-win pace.

This is gonna be a fun month. All these patsies and STRASBURG!!!

So take these last two weeks for what they were: some tough-ass teams on the road.

Record: 5-8; 25-26 overall, last (tied) in the NLE. 10th in the NL (-3 spots from last time).
Runs scored: 52, 4 per game. Juggernaut! 12th in the NL. Only 3 teams have scored fewer runs per game.
Runs allowed: 58, 4.5 per game. 236 runs allowed, 6th in the NL. (sixth!). I think I said this last time, but doesn't that contradict the impression you have? It's the pitching that's struggling in my mind, moreseo than the offense. I guess I think I've got this established picture of Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham as proven performers in mind, even if they're surrounded by junk. Whereas the pitching is mostly no-names or dreck. It's hard breaking out of patterns of the last four seasons!
Pythagoras Sez: 23-28.


1) John Lannan! I've been reloading Fangraphs all morning, waiting for their breakdown of his last few starts. I'm going to pause here 'til I see it.

(note: I began writing this entry in May of 1986)

This is what pisses me off about the statheads there. (statheads, in case you haven't figure it out is a pejorative for me, referring to the numbers-first zombies who regurgitate whatever they see without thinking critically about it or trying to put things into context.) After every bad start Lannan had earlier this year, they threw up a Toldja! post. Of course, we find out later that he's got a barking elbow. No mention of that, I suspect.

They're right on one thing. John Lannan's likely out of the league in 7 years. But they're wrong on the most important part: His success is NOT luck. Luck, in the parlance of statheads, is like the ancients who thought a dragon was devouring the sun during an eclipse. It explains what they can't explain. What they're unable to explain. They can wave it away dismissively since it doesn't fit into what they do know.

But they're wrong. John Lannan ISN'T lucky. He's skilled. He has excellent command (but the walks, they say! and I'd say they don't see how he's able to pinpoint his pitches WITHIN the zone -- not often you see him throw up a fat pitch). He's able to keep the ball on the ground. He's got a GREAT changeup, which dramatically reduces the ability of righties to pound the shit out of him. He's got a GREAT idea of how to pitch: how to vary the movement of his pitches in the right locations to keep hitters off balance. It just isn't often that you see batters really square off on him -- he's rarely in danger of getting whiplash.

Sure. Sometime in the next 5 years, Lannan's going to lose a little bit of stuff. Maybe he loses a little feel of the breaking stuff. Maybe the fastball dips in speed a bit. Something's going to happen. And then that delicate balance is going to come crashing down. We saw that when his elbow was hurting, and it wasn't pretty.

But luck? Blow me, fangraphs.

2) Josh Willingham. Is the increase in walks a function of improved eye? Most certainly. But I still wonder how much of it is just batters being careful. He's the last link in what's a pretty short offensive chain. He's slow as dirt. Dunn ahead of him is slower than dirt. And there's nothing but singles hitters behind him. If he and Dunn both walk, it's taking 3 scratch singles from the scrubs behind him to score two runs. Whereas a fat pitch to W'Ham does it in one hit. 'Course he's had plenty of those fat pitches on his own as it is.

3) Cristian Guzman. I'm torn. Is .318/ .348/ .364 good or not? I mean, it's definitely a positive, I guess. But there's a lot to NOT like in there too. I s'pose that if you could guarantee that he'd hit that all year, you'd take it. Yet, I'd sorta be unhappy on the inside.

That's the funny thing about Guzman. I've read/seen a lot of grumbling about how he kills the team. But there he is, with an OPS better than 3 other regulars (plus whoever's sucking in RF on a given day). He's perfectly cromulent, yet we all sorta hate him. The triple play sure didn't help!

Other than the "having sucked millions of dollars from the fans" part, it's kinda gotta suck to be Guzman. Even when you're ok, people hate you.

4) Drew Storen. Everyone's Twitter BFF had a pretty successful debut. He had one tough game, but that happens. Other than his first start, Riggles has thrown him right into the fire, and he's handled it -- yesterday's walk-induced tightrope notwithstanding. There's a lot to like. Solid fastball, great slider. And he doesn't appear to be afraid of much. Let's see what happens when he hits a rough patch though. For now, it's nice to have an extra arm, even if Tyler Clippard's orthopedist wouldn't agree.

5) Ian Desmond's Clutchitudiness. Desmond didn't have a good week, with a slash line that looks a lot like Guzman, but he had 8 RBI out of the 8th spot. And he showed a knack for getting the big hit when the team needed it. Should he be batting higher? I've seen some calls for him to bat 2. But he's got a .304 on-base. His .410 slugging isn't great. But it's a pretty strong ISO (given his .260ish BA). I think he's probably OK where he is. Maybe 7th... if he comes up more often after a Willingham walk...? Dunno.


1) Nyjer. What's more bipolar? Njyer (and, please, for the love of all that's fucking holy, it's Ny -JJJJJJ -- er, not with a G, you comment-posting morons!) or his fans? Last year, he was the greatest player in the history of the league. This year, he's the worst player ever, and needs to be dropped out of the lineup. Though I'm sure some of his biggest fans keep bottles of their own waste, too. He hit .163/.217/ .186, but it's his defense that's killing the team. Riggles still should've benched him after his glove-throwing hissy fit. That his teammates rose to defend him after the game indicates that they're better teammates than he is.

NyJer is neither as good as he was last year (I still think his injury was the best thing to ever happen to him), nor is he as bad as he's been this year. He's not Nook Logan 2.0. He's still a solid player. It's just that his head is so far up his ass now that he's drowning in purple gatorade.

2) Matt Capps. He blew his first save. And struggled like hell in a few other appearances. In 5 innings, he gave up 12 hits, and 6 runs -- with runs coming in 4 separate appearances. At least his rough patch came now, but if he's blowing saves against Manny's Indians, I'm gonna be sick.

3) Ryan Zimmerman. .229/ .362/ .354 and a few big errors. Ugh.

4) Wil Nieves. .192/ .276/ .346 We'll know when we've progressed as a team when this shitbag is no longer on the roster.

5) Luis Atilano. A 7.45 ERA isn't the impressive stat. His .93 K/9 is. I don't even know how a pitcher does that.


This really wasn't a very good stretch for exciting games. The only really exciting win was the May 23 win over the Orioles, and that only got exciting because Capps spilled Nyjer's Gatorade on the bed. Still, a walk-off homer IS a walk-off homer. Go W'Hammer!

MVP AWARD: Josh Willingham, Duh. 4 homers. 12 RBI. He's leading the league in OBP and is 5th in OPS.

CY YOUNG: John Lannan. 3 starts, 1.96 ERA

AUSTIN KEARNS AWARD: Thanks for nuttin', Nyjer.

JOE HORGAN AWARD: It's hard to overlook Matt Capps' 10.80 ERA.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Unlimited Fish, Cozy Barrel

In the hierarchy of uninspired baseball blogging, pointing out isolated dumb statements by the pregame guys ranks somewhere in between link collecting and detailed game recaps, but whatever. This exchange made me chuckle:

Johnny Holliday: "He can hit, he can catch, he's a heckuva kid."

Ray Knight: "The one word that summizes what he is, is full of character."

If you must know, they were talking about Wil Nieves. This guy, who is currently slugging less than what Dmitri Young weighs*, is such a presence in the lineup that any one-word summizary of him requires three.

Or, better yet, perhaps four more carefully selected letters.

Anyway, this was part of a ten-minute segment about Nieves, which I'd summize in one word as waste of time.

*/outdated cheap shot

It Wont' Be The 9th

Looking at the Nats' site, the 9th against the Buccos is listed as a value game. You don't go cheap with the Savior.

Getting Creative With Strasburg

So we now know he's going to make his debut against El Buccos.  Guess they wanted to continue seeing if he could get Triple-A lineups out.  Ooooh!  Lastings Milledge!  I'm sure Stras is trembling at the formidable lineup.

Apparently some are kvetching about the bait and switch the Nats did with the 6/4 date, getting a sellout on a game that otherwise would've seen 18,000 miserable souls.  Really... what the hell are these people thinking?  They've got no reason to complain.  The team (almost to the point of absurdity) didn't say a damn thing about when he'd start, and they went out of their way to say that they WEREN'T going to announce it.

So some people speculated and now they're complaining?

I don't understand what was so magical about 6/4 anyway.  Really, if you're the team, wouldn't a Saturday or Sunday start -- and all the attendant press and attention -- have made more sense than a Friday game?  I dunno.  I would've bet the Sunday game had I decided to buy a ticket.

But to fault the team?  That's horseshit.  And that's coming from someone who isn't inclined to ever give these morons the benefit of the doubt.

If anyone bares responsibility for the 6/4 flurry its those most irresponsible of types: internet bloggers.  These Keyboard Kommandos, on such sites as Nats Insider, Goessling Game and Sports Bog were the ones taking their shoes and socks off, counting days, and speculating.    That was highly irresponsible of them, but what else would you expect from the mothers' basement sort?  Leave it to the professionals -- -- to correct the record and dispel the sputum these quasi-wannabe journos were spewing.

I, for one, think you should ask these guys for your money back. Failing that, go watch the Reds and imagine which players, were you Jim Bowden and still in charge of the team, you'd be looking to acquire.

  • The Nats are making a mistake with Strasburg.

    OK. I can't say that with certainty. But I sure wish they'd be a bit more creative.

    We know he's going to give us about 100 IP. Let's assume best case scenario, he gives us 6 IP per average. Considering pitch counts, it may be less. But considering his groundball ways, it may be more. 6 innings, means he's getting about 18 starts.

    It's hard to complain about that. But at the same time, I kinda wished they had tried something a bit different.

    For one, I wish that rather than focusing on total innings, that they focused on total pitches. I know he's had an either/or cap, but it doesn't seem like all IP or pitches are the same. For the most part, this guy cruises. His average pitch is less stressful, you'd assume, than another guy. If he's at 90 and cruising in the 7th, keep him out there. If it's the 3rd and he's laboring, maybe you hook him early, instead of hoping he guts through 5 or 100 pitches.

    Let's say he cruises in 2/3 of his starts, and hits that innings cap in mid-September. Maybe, considering his hypothetical less stressful workload, they should let him throw a few more games.

    Or maybe move him to the pen? Maybe let him start a few games, then 'save' him, letting him pitch as the Batista-like garbage time reliever for a week or two. Then move him back to the rotation to close the season.

    The Orioles of ye olden days used to start their starters in the pen. The Twins have recently -- someone named Johann... is he Belgian?

    I'm not saying the Nats should do that, but maybe instead of running him straight through and then having to shut him down early, they could 'rest' him and save him a little bit at some point in the middle of the season.

    Of course if he's 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA and a 56/17 K/BB ratio after 7 starts, ain't nothing gonna take him out of the rotation.

  • I'm gonna say the Wednesday Bucco game. Why the hell not?

  • Monday, May 24, 2010

    Dirt-Kickin' Good Time

    Kudos to Teh Bog for his frame-by-frame breakdown of the Julio Lugo dirt-kicking play * as Josh Willingham rounded the bases in today's Nats game.

    * Side note: It's kind of fun to think of his working space: empty containers of tofu littering the ground, fingers stained with the clear white of soy cheese, hundreds of loose a/v cords left over from past attempts at recording radio stations; tossed-away dictaphones and other transcription material, etc.

    There's only one possible explanation for Julio Lugo's actions: he thought Willingham was his wife. 

    Willingham, bitch or not, after that homer, ain't gonna be making ANYONE dinner.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    What Does It Say...

    ... that this makes me smile inside?

    At least he hasn't sat in the dugout.  Yet.

    Of course were it not for Ted Turner, he'd probably have already done it.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    It's Not Clutch

    Skimming and listening around, one of the early refrains of tonight's loss is that the team didn't do enough to get the big hit.  While that's empirically true, it's also just as true that they didn't win because they didn't get the three-run homer.

    This is a team that's always going to be offensively challenged.  And when you take out Adam Dunn (It's hemorrhoids, isn't it?), they're worthless.  It's a two-man offense.

    I love Ian Desmond -- and his eighth-inning AB was as good an AB as anyone on this team has ever had -- but when he's the third best hitter in the lineup, you have a bad team.

    This lineup had 5 batters who hit like middle infielders, or worse.  It's no wonder they lost, especially when facing Chris Carpenter.  That John Lannan did enough to keep them in the game to that point was the real victory tonight.

    This team lacks power.  Outside 3/4/5, there just isn't any.  And you can't score runs when you need the waterbugs from spots 6-2 to string hits together.  Didn't we learn this lesson in 2005?

    The fault there lies, somewhat, with Rizzo.  One of the flaws of this team is that there's no real 1B alternative.  It's laughable how much Dibble has been lauding Mike Morse as the team's big power threat off the bench.  Morse has 6 career homers.  (That's seis for you Arizonians)  And his career slugging is like .403.  (give or take 5 points; i don't feel like looking).

    They could've really used a bat on the bench.  Someone with some real punch -- not just as a PHer, but to fill in when Dunn has owies.

    You can nitpick this game to death, but save that Coors-aided explosion in runs a few games ago, this has been a pretty mediocre offense.  Were it not for the sensational stretch of adequate pitching, we'd be even more effed than Tyler Clippard's elbow.


    Speaking of which... ya think that Riggles is going to blame rest for Clippard's recent struggles?  He just can't nail his spots like he was.  Dude's exhausted and he needs a break.  Riggles mumbled something about the velocity is there, which is true.  But jesus.  Sometimes you really can tell more from TV than the person in the dugout.  When pitchers get fatigued like that, velocity stays the same; they just lose command.  He's lost it, and Riggles seems to be the last person to notice.

    Maybe today's game (his latest stinker) will make him give it a second look.

    I just hope Clippard's elbow hasn't called it a night.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Nationals Reviewed: Six Weeks Down

    I've always subscribed to the school of thought that you shouldn't pay a damn bit of attention to the standings 'til Memorial Day. (See last year's Blue Jays for an example of why -- hell, maybe see THIS year's Blue Jays.) That being said, if I keep up the pattern, the next in this series will be written on {drumroll} Memorial Day.

    Close enough. Here we are. Tied for second. 7th-best record in the league. And all against a schedule that we all thought would slap us on the butt and make us say daddy.

    Are we a contender? We can't say yes. But, and here's the amazing part, we can't say no either. This is a team that's potentially poised to surge ahead. Of course with Livan's ERA hovering at the price of a small bag of chips, it could zip around the other way just as easily.

    But that's a thought for later days. Let's take stock of what just happened.

    Record: 7-6, 20-18 overall. 2nd in the NL East (+1 from last time), 7th overall in the NL (-1 from last time)
    Runs Scored: 60 (4.6/g); 164 overall, 11th overall. Weirdly, that's a lot more offense than I'd have guessed. It felt like we had a lot more games where we couldn't get the key run across. That's probably skewed by all the 1-run games -- in particular, the losses this week.
    Runs Allowed: 54 (4.2/g); 178 overall, 7th overall. Certainly seems like the pitching has been worse than that. Damn you, Bruney.
    Pythagoras Sez: 18-20. Damn you, Marquis


    1) The Marlboro Man! Ol' Smokey did just that, lighting up batters all 'round the National League. In 3 games, he struck out out 13, while walking just 3. Despite that (and his 1.86 ERA), Greinke... err.. Olsen won ZERO GAMES. That's some great support!

    What's better? Well, his velocity, for one. Olsen's throwing harder than he has in his last two seasons. The velocity's not all the way back, but it's been enough back. Seems like his command has been excellent too. It isn't just that he's not walking batters, it's that he's usually hitting his spots. One of the things MASN does well is superimpose that catcher's mitt on the screen when they do their pitch track thingee. So often you see the catcher catch the ball two feet from where he started. That hasn't really been the case with Olsen. Pudge wants it low and in, it's going low and in. Increased velocity + increased command = a much better pitcher.

    Interestingly, the PitchFXers are having a hard time with his pitchers this year. While they're usually decent at tracking things down, about 18% of his pitches can't be identified. I'm racking my brain trying to figure out what they're missing. Is it that slurvy sorta curve he throws?

    2) Tyler Walker! I never really got a chance to write it, but Walker was my pick as the guy most likely to earn Riggles' trust going forward. When he had that rough stretch earlier, it was all driven by a few homers. His K and BB numbers were excellent. You can't wave away homers (as much as Jason Bergmann wishes you could), but Walker isn't a 3 homers per game kind of pitcher. For this stretch, he was scoreless, allowing just 4 hits and a walk in 6 appearances. As Riggles struggles to find someone to back up Clip 'N Save, Walker's likely to be the guy (aside from Storen) to fill the role.

    3) Adam Dunn! Remember when he was ice cold? .295/ .392/ .727 these last two weeks, and his seasonal OPS is even higher than last year. I'm still waiting for various people to praise Adam for swinging the bat in the 9th inning in yesterday's one-run loss, considering how they complained about how he took too many pitches in a similar situation a few weeks back. What? You mean they expected him to homer, instead of grounding out?

    4) Josh Willingham! .273/ .400/ .636. He's suddenly turned into a walking machine. I suspect that as much of that is attributable to whoever's hitting behind him (and their lack of power) as it is to an improved eye. His 18.9% walk rate is 50% higher than last year's career high. As one of the few power threats in the lineup -- and the lowest in the order -- that might not come down all that much over the course of a season. I guess nobody respects Rog Bernardina!

    5) Cristian Guzman! I ain't gonna praise him, but dude did hit .467/ .500/ .533

    5a) Wily Taveras! I ain't gonna praise him, but dude did hit .429/ .500/ .429


    1) Brian Bruney. "We feel he makes us a better club. He strengthens one of our weak points in the bullpen." "I'm happy with the trade." Those are Mike Rizzo. Here's Mark Lerner: "Other bullpen help could come from Brian Bruney and Eddie Guardado." Man, that "could" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in there.

    2) Tyler Clippard. Others have gone over the inherited runners problem. Putting those aside, he still had a 5.40 ERA. And now Riggles says some of that's because of TOO MUCH REST? Oy. Strikeouts are down. Walks are up. And, if you look at that pitch track doohickee, he's not hitting the mitt like he was. THAT'S the sign of a fatigued pitcher. It's pretty frickin' obvious.

    3) Willie Harris. .167/ .231/ .292. Sure, he's made some game-saving catches, but maybe (just maybe!) if the Nats had an outfielder who could freakin' hit, they wouldn't need to rely on one catch to save the freakin' team's bacon.

    4) Nyjer. .250/ .321/ .292. While you wouldn't undo it, and the talent given up wasn't really much, might we want to start reconsidering the big trade? It's not like Burnett was an All-Star last year either. It's still a trade you'd make 8 times out of 6, but if you thought that last year's .340-hitting Nyjer was who we acquired... well, I've got a FLop and Kearns I'd love to sell you.

    5) Riggleman! If you put personalities aside... let's say you just focus on the in-game moves... the pitching changes, the bunts, the hit-and-runs... It's Frank all over again. Far too often he can't sit back and let things happen (that doesn't mean placidly standing there like Manny's necessarily better), and he has to try to do too much. Especially the bunting.

    Now I'm not one of those anti-bunting crusaders. And in the context of this lineup, where there's a solid power core, but a whole buncha singles hitters at the bottom, a bunt will make sense in certain situations. But what's been driving me crazy, especially, is the 1-out sacrifice. He does this ALL the time with the pitchers. It drives me batty with a runner on first. It farkin kills me with runners on 1/2. STOP IT! Let them swing away with one out! If they end the inning, so be it.

    I also wish he'd swing away more. Teams are defensing the bunt very aggressively. There are others, but that's enough for now. I don't wanna bring back the Frank Senior Moments.


    For the second straight period, it's gotta be a Scott Olsen start, no? Last was his 1-0 win over the Dodgers. This'd be his no-no-no game. You had the starter taking a no-no deep. You had Jason Heyward coming through in a big spot. You had Tyler Clippard baring down. And then you had a walk-off hit by Willie Harris, after Ryan Zimmerman almost took another ball over the wall of Petey Moylan. Ah, memories.

    MVP AWARD: Lots of good bats this week, but a tip 'o the cap to Rog Bernadina. He batted .371, and made a ton of great catches in the outfield. And let's not forget his career game -- where he hit his first two major-league homers.

    CY YOUNG AWARD: With an Honorable Mention to Livo, this was clearly Olsen's fortnight. Winston Lite deserves a few wins!

    AUSTIN KEARNS AWARD: Anyone else notice Ivan Rodriguez' plummeting average? Or that his OBP matched his batting average? Or that both were .268? He had as many GIDP as XBH. That ain't good.

    JOE HORGAN AWARD: I'm going to resist the temptation to rename this the Brian Bruney. For now. But this is clearly Mr. Bruney's award. 11.57 ERA, 9.6 BB/9. That's a bad stretch for any non-position player pitcher.

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Just A Storen Thought

    If the Nats have been hesitant to bring up Storen and Strasburg because of Super-2 concerns...

    And because there's been talk of bringing Storen up before Strasburg (maybe as part of a Bruney/Chico/Storen flop?)...

    Wouldn't it sorta make sense to bring up Storen sooner rather than later? If the team thinks they're both going to stick for the entire time, then promoting Storen might reduce Strasburg's salary.

    Look at it this way: If you 'guarantee' (or at least increase the odds) of Storen being a Super Two, that's one more player ahead of Strasburg on the service time list for S2 eligibility. By calling up Storen, they could be helping to push Strasburg off the end of the list (since it's calculated based upon the 17% of players with the highest service time.

    Storen could -- absolute worst case scenario for the team -- make only like $3-5 million more as a S2, whereas Strasburg could be in the $15-20 range. So by spending $5 million, they could save $15?

    I dunno... just a thought.

  • UPDATE: And just like that, he's called up. Woo. Man, it's wonderful to have the team do exactly what I tell them to do.

  • SIGN HIM NOW!!!1!1!!

    The always excellent Dave Sheinin writes about the Nats #1 pick, Bryce Harper. Wait, sorry. The Nats (AHAHAHAHAHAH) have said (CHORTLECHORTLECHORTLE) that they're (LAOALAOLAALLOLOLOLLLLLOLL!) not yet (HEHEEHEEEHEHEHEH) committed to (BWWWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH) him yet (Guffawguffawguffaw).

    At any rate, Shiney's article focuses on the dreaded character issue. And although it appears that the whole article's been edited in half of what it should've been, it's a good quick read.

    Towards the end, Shiny uses a specific example of an in-game incident that some might use to judge his 'makeup'.*

    * Makeup is the single stupidest word in all of baseball. What the hell does it actually mean? It's a meaningless, trite, valueless cliche. But it's the kind of jargon that, if you use it in the right context, it confers the notion of some kind of special knowledge. "Ah, he gets it," thinks the hoary ol' baseball man.

    Here's what he wrote:

    The taunts were coming from the opposing dugout, where the Western Nevada College Wildcats were, according to Chambers, "just wearing him out."

    "You [stink], Harper!" "Overrated!" "Just throw him a curveball -- he can't hit it." According to Chambers, as Harper stepped into the batter's box, the catcher looked up and said, "You're not that [expletive] good."

    Chambers picks up the story: "So he hits a home run. Jogs out of the box, takes a little time going around the bases. It's like, 'Oh, I can't hit that?' -- and it went over the lights, by the way. Anyway, so the next day he comes to the plate. The catcher says, 'If you pimp another homer like you did last night we're going to light you up.' Bryce looks down and says: 'Really? Maybe if you could hit one that far, you could pimp it.' "

    Long story short, Harper homers again, makes a sarcastic salute to the Wildcats' bench as he rounds third. Next half-inning, with Harper in right field, he throws behind a runner who had just singled, trying to catch him rounding first base too far. When the Wildcats start hooting, Harper makes an exaggerated bow.

    The umpire ejects him.

    Here's what I think. In order: 1) Fuck the ump. 2) I love this guy.


    Friday, May 14, 2010

    You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

    This might sound somewhat familiar:

    I'm probably the wrong guy to ask since I endorsed [Fired Manager] because I read an article about how he liked the big inning and didn't like to bunt or give away outs. That's the problem. We don't really know what these guys are like. There are precious few articles asking managers about strategy, and even fewer for guys that have never managed in the big leagues. I just did a huge write up at [a blog] on potential candidates, but the truth is, it's hard to know how any of them will be as managers. All the fired managers have the exact same criticism from their fans - they mishandle the pen, they play vets too much, they bunt too much, they bunt too little. And all the guys that haven't gotten chances yet are pretty much blank slates.

    But all might not be sackcloth and ashes for the deposed:

    It’s funny, I think he would probably make for a pretty good managerial candidate NOW that he has been through all this. He still has all of the positives he always had as a baseball man — smart, loyal, committed and so on — and now he has a much better understanding of what the job is all about.

    There are no new stories, only new actors.

    PS: At least Manny didn't sport a mullet.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    The Greatest Nyjer Morgan Thread You'll See Today

    Even more here.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Random Stats That Probably Mean Nothing

    1) Pudge has hit into 8 double plays. That's 2 fewer than his total XBH.
    2) With his first two career homers today, Rog Berardina is now tied for 6th on the team in homers.
    3) On a per PA rate, Pudge has a worse eye than Guzman
    4) Despite this, Pudge still leads the team in on-base
    5) On a per PA rate, Willingham is a better walker than Dunn.
    6) 4 of the Nats regulars are above .380 in OBP
    7) Morgan makes it 5 above .340
    8) Somehow the Nats are 10th in the league
    9) Willie Harris (.189) is due for some BABIP luck.
    10) Or perhaps he's toast
    11) Pudge is at .417; perhaps he's a golem.
    12) Nyjer Morgan has 3 bunt hits.
    13) Nyjer Morgan is batting .231 on bunt attempts
    14) Nyjer Morgan isn't a good bunter.
    15) Ryan Zimmerman has zero bunt hits
    16) Screw you, Manny
    17) Nyjer Morgan sees the most fastballs
    18) Cristian Guzman sees the fewest
    19) The team's lefties see the most changeups. I wonder why that is. Perhaps we need a pitchfx study.
    20) Adam Dunn has feasted on the fastballs he's received.
    21) Wil Nieves could hit a fastball if you put it on a tee, and let him take three cracks at it.
    22) Tyler Clippard is on pace to pitch in 124 games. (may be an estimate)
    23) Only one pitcher has blown a save.
    24) Clippard's blown 5 of 'em.
    25) The Nats won 4 of 'em anyway.
    26) Tyler Clippard (!?) leads the team in strikeouts
    27) I repeat that: a middle reliever leads the team in strikeouts
    28) 9.7 K/9; 1.02 BB/9... this guy's a pretty good relief pitcher.
    29) Sadly, that guy (Walker) has allowed over 2 HR per 9.
    30) The Nats' pitch that gets hit hardest? Stammen's curve.
    31) Although Nyjer's UZR is a bit wacky, he's already made 19 plays outside the average CFer's zone.
    32) I'm tired.

    Let's Play With Some Numbers

    Against a decent opponent on a weekend, the Nats are drawing like 18K fans.

    Let's say there was some sort of compelling reason to go to the ballpark. Something -- or perhaps someone -- who'd dramatically increase attendance. I dunno. Let's call this person Steven for short.

    Let's say that when Steven starts, he's likely to increase attendance by a lot. Maybe in his first start, he gets 42K. And say his next starts, he ups that to 33K.

    So we've got a mythical player who adds at least 15,000 extra tickets to the kitty.

    The latest Team Marketing report says that the average non-premium Nats ticket is about $30 bucks. The average premium ticket is about $200. Considering how few of either are being sold would an overall average of, say, $40 seem reasonable as a WAG?

    So each person who comes to the park is probably going to eat, drink and be merry. What's a good WAG per person. I'm cheap as hell, and I still spend $10-15 in food/drink. What's the typical beer-swilling fratboy spend? $50? Split the difference... is $20 per person in extra sales a reasonable figure?

    So we're at about $60 per person per extra ticket sold.

    Multiply that out and it's $900,000 for every home start this mythical Steven person starts.

    That's quite a bit of money the team would hypothetically be leaving on the table were this mythical fan-drawing player -- this "Steven" -- to exist.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    The Nats Have Hit the Big Time!

    We're (well, one of our players -- yes, Him) is now being referenced randomly in mailbag questions!

    Is there anything on God's green earth more frustrating than an unpoppable pimple? Not only does it make you feel like a complete fucking failure but the zit inevitably swells up to like five times its original size so you look like Stephen Strasburg plunked you in the face.

    YES! Used to be our players were laughed at. Now they're being used to invoke fear. All hail Rizzo!!!

    Saturday, May 08, 2010

    More Proof That Clippard's Good and that Bruney Sucks

    I've casually been following the discussions breaking out amongst statheads (see here and here) about a better counting stat to evaluate relievers than saves/holds. Those two stats, for all sorts of reasons, don't necessarily tell you who the best pitchers are. They're like one of those game show puzzles where a picture slowly comes into focus. At a certain point you've got enough information in your eyes to make a guess about what's going on, but you don't have the complete picture.

    I'm not entirely sure that Shutdowns and Meltdowns is completely crisp and high focus, but it's interesting.

    Basically, they took WPA and assigned a threshold (in this case +/= 6%). WPA, as I'm sure I've bleated 100 times before, takes a measure of what's happened in the situation before an even and then the result of that event. So say a team has a 95% chance of winning when Brian Bruney comes in, and gives up 80-bazillion runs. Bruney's performance would've dropped the Nats' chances down to 0. His net WPA would be -95%.

    Now for you sneerers out there, these numbers weren't pulled out of a calculator's digital ass. They're based upon real, actual, honest-to-god, human-beings-actually-played-in-these games. So Chad Cordero's built into the system. Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off is built into the system. Adam Dunn's taking 5 pitches, and getting yelled at by morons even though only one of them was actually a hittable pitch,at the end of a game is built in the system. If it happened on a field, it's in the database.

    So, the long and short of it is that if you look at individual games and what players have added, Clippard's the best in the league.

    His 10 shutdowns is tops. And his 0 meltdowns is, natch, tied for the league lead. This was highlighted, of course, by his 3-inning stint in the win against the Mets in early April.

    On the other side, of course, is Brian "Rizzo Loves Bears" Bruney. He's got just 2 shutdowns in his 15 games, to go with 3 meltdowns. If it seems like he has more meltdowns than that, you're sorta right. He's had 4 other games where his outings have decreased the chances of the Nats winning. But keep in mind that he's also pitched in some pretty low leverage situations. After that initial flurry of ass-suckery, Riggleman sorta buried him in Batistaland, before trotting him back out to fail this past week.

    Apparently having a World Series ring doesn't mean that a player doesn't suck? Odd. I was pretty sure the players would stand around in awe of Bruney's greatness. Or maybe they're just laughing at his Bedrosian-lite beard.

    Finally, everyone's a-agitatin' for Storen to come up. Teh Zuck wrote an article yesterday talking about how the economics of the game mean we're not going to see him for a while. If so, that's fucking stupid.

    Here's the thing. It's predicated on him sticking around for the next 6.5 seasons without once being demoted. We seem teams make roster decisions based on option status every single spring, and hardly anyone bats an eye. Why couldn't they call him up now -- when they clearly have a need -- and get back some of that service time next year or the following year.

    Or if you want to look things negatively, what if he's not completely dominant? They're handling him under the best-case scenario that he's going to come up and instantly succeed. Maybe he'll struggle at some point in the next two years and need to be sent down to figure some things out. Maybe they'll need to option him at some point to bring in an emergency starter (as they're doing with Justin Maxwell.)

    Basically, with a reliever, there are far too many variables for them to wait around. Chances are he's not going to be up for the next 6.5 years -- and I haven't even talked about how disposable most relievers are and how easy it is to chew 'em up, which'd mean they might not get 7 seasons out of him.

    This isn't like the Strasburg decision where an early call-up means $15 million. He's not going to be closer this year. He likely won't next year. Maybe Capps is going to be here for four years or so? If so, then Storen's not going to be making big money in arbitration. Absolute worst case scenario for the Nats, the difference in Storen now versus Storen in a few weeks could be $5 million 6 years down the road. $5 million in 6 years is pocket change when you discount it.

    For the want of a nail... or something like that.

    Thursday, May 06, 2010

    Matt Chico!!! Matt Chico!!!

    He's coming back!!!!

    We always knew that this was a team that'd be having its best pitchers coming up after the season started! We just didn't realize it would be so soon! He's a PROVEN #2 MLB starter!!!

    Monday, May 03, 2010

    The Best Picture You'll See All Day

    At least there's one thing Mets and Nats fans can agree on.

    Nationals Reviewed: The Second Fortnight

    Well, two more weeks in the books, and it I hope we didn't see the high-water mark. It's been weird having a good feeling about this team. It's been so long since Nats fans have had anything real to cheer about. In the 'high water thread', someone posted that the last good moment (aside from Strassy's signing) was Jim Bowden's resignation. While that's unquestionably a great thing for the franchise, it was a bad thing for Mark Lerner. He lost a playmate. :( But, really, while it was a GOOD thing, was that really a happy time? Did anyone feel PROUD to be a Nats fan?

    When's the last time you felt sustained pride? Not last year. Zimmerman's walk-off in the stadium opener was a fleeting moment. 2007? Nope. 2006? We had Soriano, but all those giggle-inducing homers came amidst a whole lot of losses.

    This measly month is the first time any Nats fan could feel pride in their team since July 2005. Five years ago! When you're wandering around a random city in a Nats hat, you don't really have to go "Yeah, I know they suck!" defensively. In August of 2005, I took a trip to Utah. At the very tip of Bryce Canyon (not too far where NFA Brian is now), I was out on a trail looking at a 4,000 year old pine tree. Standing there, an old guy looked at my dirty ol' Nats hat (RIP!) and said "you've got a pretty good team there." There I was, about as far away from anywhere as one could be, and someone knew and recognized the Nats without laughing at them.

    You couldn't have said that any of the last few years. Even if this team craps the bed the rest of the way, that's something.

    Record: 7-6, 13-12 overall. 3rd in the NL East, 6th overall in the NL
    Runs Scored: 3.4/g, 104 overall, 13th overall -- but I was assured we had a juggernaut!
    Runs Allowed: 3.6/g, 124 overall, 11th overall. We were 7th in both stats last time... a tough stretch, apparently.
    Pythagoras Sez: 11-14. +2 isn't anything to worry about, but it beats being below!


    1) Adam Dunn's bat! Rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated. He's still not humming along as smoothly as most fans would like, but .286/ .375/ .612 with three homers and eight RBI isn't a terrible stretch. He really is a maddening player to watch, isn't he? He's never just mediocre. He's either amazing, or he's terrible. That applies to his fielding, as well as his batting!

    2) Clip 'n Save! We've praised their virtues before, but this stretch was particularly amazing: 16.2 innings, 8 hits, 0 runs, 6 walks, 24 strikeouts. Unfortunately, that's like a 95-inning pace for the two of 'em. And we saw what happens (see: Ayala, Luis) when you throw a reliever out there that much. Oh yeah... that wasn't the workload that killed Ayala. It was that damn, dirty WBC.. yeah, right.

    3) Livan! What more can you say at this point? Some say it's Roy Halladay, but Livan is clearly the best pitcher in the NL East. Just look at the stats, fanboy.

    4) Justin Maxwell's eye! He tied with Adam Dunn for 2nd most walks on the team. And although some of 'em may have been of the pitch-around variety, he's still gotta be smart enough to know to look for it. Seems to me that the right-field answer is pretty much hear. Willie's what he is. OK on-base. Solid defense. RoBer is a slap-first, singles hitter with a good glove... sort of a younger Nook Logan. Maxwell probably won't be a star, but you can see glimpses of why Jim Bowden's leather pants would tighten: little bit of power; little bit of eye; decent control of the strike zone at times. He's not going to be Eric Davis (that popping sound you just heard was Bowden's wood), but he could be... umm.... Marcus Thames? (He's literally the first name that pops up when you google "lefty-mashing outfielder"). He's the only guy there with a chance to have a real tomorrow. Let him mash all the lefties. Send Willie's corpse up there against 2/3 of the righties, and let Maxwell increasingly get a shot against the Kyle Kendricks of the world.

    5) Ryan Zimmerman! This just in: Dude's good. His Bugs Bunny line: .440/ .500/ 1.000. The only problem: it came in just 8 games. Where's that Tatiana woman post-Dmitiri? She should be rubbing his hammies morning, noon, and night. Hopefully there wont' be a Dmitri-like pop-n-release this time.


    1) Brian Bruney. Seriously. This guy blows. And whoever could've seen it coming? This is why the mythology of Da Ring!!!1! is poppycock. The same mythical qualities that are being ascribed to Pudge were once ascribed to Bruney. Bruney just didn't have the smarts to play like an All-Star for the first two weeks of the season. Guy was a turkey in NY. He's a smoked turkey here. Mmm... Maybe on some toasted rye, with some thousand island dressing and a little kraut... Ummm... where was I? Oh, yeah. He sucks.

    2) Pudge's empty batting average. Dude hit .345! Yay! Extra-base hits: 0. Walks: 1. If that batting average were any emptier it'd... umm... it'd... hmmm... sorry... I'm watching hockey and can't come up with anything witty. Mike Green joke, perhaps? Now this isn't to pick on Pudge, but it does show an issue with him that'll bear watching as the season goes long. He's lucky that he's built such a strong base to start the season; it's gonna take a lot of empty .265 weeks for his overall numbers to come down.

    3) John Lannan. Here's what bugs me about statheads. They've been saying for years that he's due for a fall because of his crappy peripherals. And they're right. But where they've been wrong is ascribing his success to 'luck'. That's the biggest goddamn BS dump there is. It's a completely meaningless phrase that indicates that they're making as much shit up as the hoary old sportswriters extolling the virtues of a player's clutchness. The fact is that Lannan DID outperform his stats. And he did it not because he was lucky, but because he kept the damn ball on the ground, had solid command of his pitches, and seemed to really understand how to keep hitters off balance -- not many pitchers with his so-so stuff could consistently nail an inside curveball as consistently as he did.

    Now that he's scuffling, they're going to be falling all over themselves to say 'told ya!'. Fark you. The reason he's not succeeding this year isn't because he's no longer lucky. It's because he's had a talent shift. His command has been spotty this year. By command I mean two things: one, the ability for him to nails his spots (he's not); and two, the bite or zip on his pitches. It's not there the way it was. He's getting even fewer swings-and-misses. I don't know if he's having arm problems -- could just be simple fatigue, or just one of those things. But he's NOT the same pitcher he was, and there's no "told you so" there.

    Lannan's the kind of pitcher who survived by walking the tight rope. They were right in that there's no margin for error there. Something's changed, and he's fallen off a bit. Can he get it back? Perhaps. But considering how fine the margin for error was, there's a chance he won't be where he was either. And that kinda sucks.

    4) Nyjer Morgan's base-running. Seriously. Just tether the guy to the bases. If he ran the bases as well as he ran his mouth (pay attention to me!1!!!), we'd be doing well. 4 caught stealings these last two weeks against only 2 SB.

    5) Adam Kennedy. (.158/ .214/ .289) This is Adam Kennedy's age-34 season. If you were expecting him to repeat last year's stats, where he had the 2nd highest OPS of his career, well... you just might be Mike Rizzo. Meanwhile, the O-Dawg's at .308/ .385/ .413. Just sayin'...


    I'll take Scott Olsen's 1-0 win over Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers. Random fact about that game: The lone RBI was on an Adam Dunn groundout. I didn't look it up, but a trusted friend told me that Dunn didn't have an RBI groundout at all last year. If so, that's my second favorite Adam Dunn fact. What's my first? He once went an entire calendar year without a sac fly. Seriously.

    MVP AWARD: Ryan Zimmerman had the best offensive line, but Adam Dunn was in the lineup every game. He led the team in homers and RBI. And all seemed right with the world. (Oh, and in Ks too!)

    CY YOUNG AWARD: Specs Clippard edges out Capps and Livan. 14 K in 9 IP is a thing of beauty. It's like Armando Benitez, just without the game-losing homers.

    AUSTIN KEARNS AWARD: Josh Willingham. (.171/ .333/ .171) Bright side: 9 walks. Bad side: everygoddamnthing else.

    JOE HORGAN AWARD: Tyler Walker had an ungodly 8-something ERA, but if you look at his walks/homers/strikeouts, it looks funky. He looks better than he's pitched... which bodes well if the runs start going in line with his performance. With our luck, it'll work the other way, and he'll merge the worst qualities of Bruney with the worst of Lannan.

    Sunday, May 02, 2010

    The High-Water Mark

    I spent Saturday at the beach. I'm not much of a swimmer. And certainly not much of a tanner -- damn northern European genetics! But it's fun all the same.

    So there I was Saturday, sitting at the Dogfish Head brewery, munching on a Chesapeake pizza and sipping a 90-minute IPA. I glanced over to the TVs by the bar and saw that Roy Halladay was up 10-0 or something over the Mets. Might as well have been 178-2. At that point -- banking on the L for the Mets, of course -- the Nats were .5 games out of first place. With a win that night, they'd claim a share of first place. As Chuck Slowes is wont to oversay, Unbelievable!

    We know now that it wasn't to be. The Nats lost, dropping them to third. And another loss today -- with the Sunday night game still being played. (Man, Johann looked positively Bergmannesque out there!)

    So is this the high-water mark? The point in the season at which it's the best to be a Nats fan? Was 6:05, Saturday May 1 as good as it gets?

    We'll see. But let's take a look at what those other high-water marks were.

    2004: November 22, when they named the team. Obviously the getting-the-team part might've been a bit more important, but things were always on the up after that. Speaking of up, I had forgotten about this potential DC logo.

    2005: Some of you'll say opening night. But that overlooks the wild ride from the rest of the season. It's clearly Sunday, July 3. That finished up the first half -- a wild 5-4 12-inning win over the Cubs. The Nats were 50-31, in first place with the 4th best record in all of baseball and in the midst of a pennant race! Oh well.

    2006: Wednesday April 5. After losing a close opening day game, the Nats beat Jorge Julio and evened their record at 1-1. That's as good as it got.

    2007: Tuesday, August 7. A day after John "Balls of Steel" Lannan skunked Barry Bonds in the midst of his quest to bump off Hank Aaron, Mike "Dirty Mexican" Bacsik couldn't keep him in the park. But in a game everyone was watching, the Nats had the last laugh, winning 8-6. It wasn't that this game was particularly important, but the context of it... the team that most thought would be a laughingstock held its own on the big bad stage, and it actually felt kinda good to be a Nats fan... for at least one night.

    2008: The easy answer is Opening Night. And that's probably the right answer. But I remember being delighted at the Nats 3-0 start, and actually driving with my sucker of a friend up to Philly. "Hey, that Manny Acta really must be a hell of a manager," I undoubtedly thought. Call me young and stupid. It really felt like the start of something special. The Nats pounded Jamie Moyer who, at one point, sported an ERA that could've been his birth year. Ryan Howard booted balls. And the Nats had a big lead. But this being Jason Bergmann, it wasn't to be. Then Jesus Colome came in and I've managed to black that part out. But those 4 days preceding that game? Sheer bliss.

    2009: {null}