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:
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!
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.
5-8; 25-26 overall, last (tied) in the NLE. 10th in the NL (-3 spots from last time).
52, 4 per game. Juggernaut! 12th in the NL. Only 3 teams have scored fewer runs per game.
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!
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.
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.
GAME O' THE FORTNIGHT
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!
Josh Willingham, Duh. 4 homers. 12 RBI. He's leading the league in OBP and is 5th in OPS.
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.