Thursday, June 24, 2010

'Til Death?

The Nats set sail for Birdland, wrapping up the interleague slate with a weekend series. Years ago, I suspected that this “Battle of the Beltways” stuff might, at some point, generate even a scintilla of interest from me. But it hasn’t happened. Not disposed to hate the Orioles, whom I followed very closely prior to the Nats’ arrival, I have instead settled into the neglectful comfort of apathy for the Birds. So I will again treat this series as merely some sort of half-hearted status check.

And let it be said that, from all appearances, the status of the O’s is dreadful. Depending on the result of this evening’s wrapper against the Marlins (“Plenty of good seats available!”), the O’s might have finally reached the 20-win mark by the time the made-for-MASN rivalry resumes on Friday night. But if not, a loss tonight means interim manager Juan Samuel will enter the Nats series batting .222 (4 wins in 18 games) since taking over for Lame Duck Dave Trembley.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but the train derailed before it even left the station. Markakis, Jones, and Wieters, perhaps the core of an excellent young lineup someday but not today, mainly serve to nudge down the average age of an essentially dreadful collection of veteran filler. Corey Patterson? Really? (Yes, I know that Felix Pie, not an old veteran, has been hurt, and so has Brian Roberts, a veteran but not dreadful.) The pitching is kind of the same story. Young pitching sometimes takes some time to develop – Matusz has been non-horrendous so far, which is encouraging – but the O’s seem to relish affording the likes of Mark Hendrickson a run at accumulating enough service time to gain a full MLB pension.

In the past 12 (and now 13) seasons of futility, the O’s have cycled through various iterations. In somewhat chronological order, they’ve been a Team Of Veterans, a Team Of Guys Who Just Want to Play, a Team With Some Youth, a Team With Improved Pitching, a Team Making A Splash, a Team With Improved Fundamentals, and now a Team Of The Future. But this has mostly been just marketing; the Orioles entered the “organizational culture of losing” stage eight or nine years ago, and the primary difference I detect between them and the Pirates at this point is that the Orioles have attached brighter labels to their losing ways.

I don’t know what the Orioles should do, given the circumstance in which they find themselves, but I’m sort of rooting that they do something radical and nutty for the remainder of the season.

I’m reminded of an article I read on teh internets about a FOX show called ‘Til Death. I vaguely knew of this show, which stars the big lug of a brother from Everybody Loves Raymond, in the same sense that I’m vaguely aware of lots of stuff that run across the periphery of my mind, but I never saw an episode of it and now I never will. After apparently spending a year or two in the According to Jim role as the mop-up man of the FOX schedule, it’s now officially cancelled. Even before the cancellation, everyone knew it would be cancelled, but due to some sort of agreement between the network and the production company, they kept on making episodes of the show. Even though everyone involved had every reason to believe that very, very few people would watch or even care.

So, according to the A.V. Club article, the people behind ‘Til Death decided to steer their empty bus straight to crazy town, incorporating some bizarre, through-the-looking-glass angles. For instance:

Perhaps realizing that the role of Ally (Joy and Eddie's daughter) had been played by four actresses over the course of the series (including Krysten Ritter!) while the role of boyfriend/fiancee/husband Doug had been played by only Sharp, the series embarked on an astoundingly bizarre story arc: It had Doug realize he was a character in a sitcom whose wife kept getting recast, then sent him to psychotherapy to make peace with this fact.

{. . . snip. . . }

The Doug story arc was one of the more unexpected things on TV last year, including the character riffing on the generic brands the other characters were using (and tossing in a tie-in to another storyline, no less), the other characters joking about how if they were a sitcom they'd be in a timeslot where no one would watch them, Doug slowly coming to realize he could neither swear nor have actual sex, and a whole episode where Ally was recast yet again and Doug had to come to terms with it before realizing the actress playing his new wife was much friskier in the bedroom (even as he realized that the camera would cut away before anything would happen).

The very next paragraph discusses how this Doug character went to a therapist played by Mayim Bialik, who actually turned out to be Mayim Bialik, who was filming her sessions with Doug as part of her own reality show. And apparently Bialik maintained that she was actually Blossom, a real person, not just a television character. Oh, and apparently some fat guy who thought he was Joey Lawrence would show up and mock her. Woah?

Anyway, the Doug story arc is somewhat reminiscent of Terry Crowley’s story arc with the Orioles. Crowley is, of course, the long-time hitting coach in Baltimore. He’s been with the team in that capacity since 1999, so he’s seen a lot of losing in that time – and, one supposes, might even be responsible, even in an indirect way, for some of it. Lord only knows why he hasn’t been dumped by the club, just as waves of managers, pitching coaches, bench coaches, and base coaches have been in that time. But he remains.

Crowley has outlasted so many managers and coaches over the past decade-plus that maybe it’s time to start using his experience in the organization to some strategic advantage. For instance, the Orioles never seem to settle on a manager. They think of Lee Mazzilli as the next big thing, then decide he’s not. They think of Sam Perlozzo as a rock, then decide he was more a millstone. They think of Dave Trembley as a return to doing-things-the-right-way, then decides he’s taking things the wrong way. They never know what they’ve got until they’ve got it.

So, if all these guy have come through the manager’s office in Crowley’s time, what’s a few more for him to deal with this season? Maybe the Orioles should treat the manager’s position as a try-out squad for the remainder of the year. Let’s say the organization has four guys it is considering to take the position full-time. I don’t know who those people would be, exactly, but let’s say they’re Juan Samuel, a long-time organization type like Rick Dempsey, and two managers in their minor league system. Give them a few weeks each, maybe a month (crediting Samuel for time served) to prove their stuff. Hell, maybe even rotate them to gain a tactical advantage – perhaps one of those guys (maybe a minor league manager) is really good with young pitches, so he manages in games started by Matusz or Tillman. I don’t know . . . but it sounds kind of crazy, right?! Granted, this won’t work with bigger names like Bobby Valentine, but he’s already said he doesn’t want the job anyway. So what’s the harm?

Of course, this kind of thing might not help the team in an immediate on-the-field sense, but at this point not even half the lineup of the American Dreams could.

Oddball prediction: O’s take two of three. They’re due.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tough Guy Rizzo

I was going to  post something about Mike Rizzo's decision to send John Lannan down to Double-A, but FJB hit many of the same points I was going to.  The whole Mike Rizzo: Tough Guy shtick wears on me.  As he said, this reminded me of the "Aura" comments Rizzo spat out when sending down Shell.

He highlighted this:

Still, I cringed when this quote from Rizzo popped up on Ben Goessling's blog: "Psychologically, I think that he was very worried about that he wasn't letting his teammates down. He wasn't giving his teammates a chance to win games and stuff like that. Whenever you get that kind of mindset, I think it was a good time for him to take a step back, get himself together and go down there and get with a guy he's comfortable with and iron some things out and get back up here."

Why does Mike Rizzo think he's an amateur psychologist?

I think you need to be a little bit arrogant to do that job well -- to do most jobs well you need confidence in your abilities.  But from this, to some of the past statements he's made, to his "Don't question me about Strasburg Because I've Developed Major League Pitching" comments a few weeks back, he seems like he crosses the line.  Is he an asshole?  Doesn't mean he's not a good person, or a bad GM.  I'm an asshole, but I'm a pretty good person (and likely a bad GM).

I'm getting sidetracked from the point I had in my head when I started; that's the beauty of a blog: nothing's really off topic!

I can completely understand the decision to send Lannan down.  He's pitched like crap on toast.  But at the same time, I don't have to like it.  I think, as FJB does, I guess, that Lannan's owed a little more respect than that.

The thing that stuck in my mind when I read about it this morning is that I wondered if it was a way to force his hand with an injury.  Dude's clearly not right.  FJB says it's because he's left the ball up.  It's not quite that, though that's part.  His sinker isn't sinking.  I can't remember where I saw it -- and if someone knows where, throw it in comments -- but someone did an analysis of his sinkers using PitchFx.  He's like like 2" of movement on his 2-seamer.  So all those complaints about how the Sox were able to center the ball are likely right.  His ball ain't moving.

So is it an injury?  We already know his arm was barking earlier this year.  He's not copping to it -- publicly at least.  As we saw with Mock earlier this year, sometimes a demotion makes a player a little more forthcoming with what's ailin' em.  Maybe Lannan's going to mention that he's hurting so he goes on the DL (and rehabs) instead of riding the buses of the Eastern League?

I dunno.  I feel bad for John.  He deserves better than this, even if it's a business run by apparently asshole businessmen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Apology Not Accepted

So Stephen Strasburg apologized for not getting the bunt down with two strikes, on the play where Ian Desmond got caught on a road trip off first base.  Apology not accepted.

If anyone should apologize it's Jim Riggleman.  The old bastard has his pitchers bunt early and often.  Let Strasburg hit away.  The guy smacked the crap out of minor league pitching.  And there was one out!

Is bunting a runner over, giving us ONE chance to get a hit -- and with Nyjer "ECHL Mentality" Morgan really a smart play there?

Riggleman bunts with 1 out way too often.  Drives me batty just about every time.

And then why not double switch someone into the game when Clippard came in?  Looked especially stupid after Clippard chewed through the ChiSox as if he were Strasburg?

And what's up with the moron fans doing the wave?  It started as a way to distract the pitcher and lose his focus.  So not only is it something they'd do at Shea, or whatever the hell dump has replace it, but you're doing it at the wrong time!

Man, nobody did anything right last night.

One more: The Pied Piper?  Seriously?  Give it up.  Unless you're calling yourself a rat.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You, Guard the Base

A couple years ago or so, someone posted a moderately entertaining Transformers spoof on Youtube. The gist is that the Optimus Prime, head of the Good Guy Robots (the heroic Autobots), comes back to life and discovers that the remaining Autobots pretty much suck. To an extent, I think this was a plot point from the 1980s cartoon movie, which, by the way, was a treasure to the extent that Michael Bay was not involved with it. Anyway, the joke is that the Optimus Prime, despairing over what remains of his side, is foul-mouthed and angry. For instance, planning one last offensive against the Bad Guy Robots (the vile Decepticons), he curtly directs the least capable of his charges to stay back and “guard the base” – code for “I don’t trust you with anything important because you pretty much suck.”

I think of this video from time to time – mainly because of its effective use of swears (which I won’t repeat here because Chris insists that this place remain a family-friendly blog) – and, yes, I think it has some degree of applicability here because the Nationals’ starting rotation simply features too many guys who are better suited to guarding the base. They have their moments here and there, but in the long run you can’t really win with these guys; you can only not-lose, in the event the other team doesn’t put forth a real attack.

A commonality among the Nats’ base-guarders is an extreme averse to the strikeout. Strasburg aside, the starters have strikeout rates so low as to suggest that any strikeouts are pretty much accidental: Livan, for all of his early-season swagger, has struck out 3.7 batters per nine innings; Atilano, also 3.7, after Thursday afternoon’s stinker; Stammen, 4.2, before he got sent out; and Lannan has downshifted all the way to less than three. Absurd! Olsen’s strikeout rate has been pretty close to ordinary when he’s been healthy, but his replacement, Martin, isn’t exactly a Doctor K or even a Big Nasty.

Strikeouts are not everything, of course. What do Seth McClung, Ryan Rupe, and B.J. Kim have in common? They’re all pitchers of recent memory who had seasons in which they threw 100+ IP with a K/9IP rate of at least 7.5, yet posted an ERA of 6.00 or more. Let’s call it the Ten Cent Head list. Estaban Yan had a season where he almost made the; so close! For those nostalgic for the previous, briefer era of Orioles incompetence, I’ll briefly touch on Ken Dixon’s 1987 season, which did qualify as a Ten Cent Head season. He struck out 7.8 batters per nine innings, and had a K/BB ratio of 3.37, but he nevertheless posted a 6.43 ERA. Surrendering 31 homers (more homers than walks!) in 105 innings will do that to you.

But the Nats are tending toward the other end of the spectrum. To have three rotation spots occupied by pitchers who strike out fewer than four batters per nine innings has to be rare. It must be rare – by definition, guys with strikeout rates that low are the fringe, skirting with the edge of success.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to succeed in a given year with a low strikeout rate; that would be a massive overstatement. Since 1980, there are 109 pitcher seasons in which a pitcher has qualified for the ERA title, posted a K/9IP rate of lower than 4.0, and finished with an ERA+ of 100 or higher. Let’s call these guys the Kings of Savvy. Some pretty good pitchers are on this list. Tommy John, who could reasonably be called a near-Hall of Famer, posted a 136 ERA+ in 1981 with a 3.21 K/9IP. Scott McGregor, despite a ridiculously low K/9IP of 2.98, went 18-7 with a 3.18 ERA for the 1983 Orioles, the World Series champions. In 1985, Jimmy Key struck out next to nobody in this first year as a starter for the Blue Jays, but posted a 142 ERA+ and made the all-star team. Mike Dunne, who won 13 games as a rookie for the 1987 Pirates despite not debuting until June, also made the list.

You probably noticed the one thing these seasons have in common – they all occurred in the 1980s. This isn’t to suggest that all of those 109 successful low-strikeout seasons occurred in the 1980s. Among the top 25 (sorted by ERA+), a handful occurred in the 1990s and a handful more since 2000. Clearly, though, most of the Kings of Savvy seasons on the list occurred in the 1980s, which makes all the sense in the world. Around 1993 or 1994, strikeout rates jumped in both leagues, and they haven’t looked back. In the National League, for instance, things hit an all-time high in 2008 when the K/9IP rate hit 7.0, and that mark lasted exactly one year – and now, with a rate of 7.2 K/9IP, NL pitchers are threatening to set a new high-water again. So we aren’t living in the 1980s anymore.

But the Nats are using (and collecting) 1980s-style pitchers, at least as far as strikeout rates go. And maybe, perhaps, they’ve assembled some good ones. If present circumstances hold to the end of the season (which they won’t, but play along), Livan’s 141 ERA+ would rank 8th among the Kings of Savvy. Chien-Ming Wang’s 2006 season ranks 22nd by ERA+, so at least there’s a good bit of form to which perhaps he’ll return.

However, we’re not living in a 1980s world anymore, so either Luis Atilano learns how to strike out some batters (which he didn’t do with great regularity in the minors, either), or he won’t last as a big league starter. It’s not quite that simple, but that’s sort of the way things are these days. Some Kings of Savvy kept it going for a few years in the 1980s, but very few present-day Kings of Savvy are able to sustain success.

Which brings us to John Lannan. The following pitchers pitched enough innings to qualify for the NL ERA title last year while striking out fewer than four batters per nine innings: 1) John Lannan. That’s it; that’s the list.

And Lannan is really outdoing himself this year, averaging 2.9 punchies per nine innings. Since 1990, five pitchers have qualified for the ERA title while averaging fewer than three strikeouts per nine innings: 1) Nate Cornejo (2003; lowest qualifying rate since 1961!); 2) Bill Gullickson (1992), Kirk Rueter (2004), Ricky Bones (1993), and Mark Knudson (1990).

Cornejo pitched for the 2003 Tigers, which sums him up; Gullickson was pretty much done by the following year; Reuter was even more done the following year; Knudson was really, really done the following year; and Bones made a bizarro all-star appearance the following year before unraveling.

So at this rate we’re rooting for John Lannan will take the Ricky Bones career path? If so, there’s a base for him to guard.

Aaron Crowe Revisited

Over at, I write about The Great Drew Storen Trade of '08.  Check it out.  They won't keep giving me beer if you don't.  :-(

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nationals Reviewed: And Hark, He Hath Appeared in the Fifth Fortnight Edition

A day late, but you're still probably expecting this to be all STRASBURG STRASBURG STRASBURG STRASBURG!!!! Sorry to disappoint. I'm not going to abuse the caps like that. Although he's only been here for a week, that's the story of the fortnight. Nothing else, as they say, matters.

Well, the wins and losses matter, I s'pose. And really, that's the problem with this stretch. The Nats were entering a stretch of games that they SHOULD have handled relatively easy. They didn't. They pooped the bed, as if they were led by an incontinent Acta, and losing two to Manny might've been the low point.

So the story of the last two weeks is a whole bunch of losses, punctuated by a few wins by STRAS...err... Strasburg.

If that's going to change, it's mostly up to Luis Atilano and JD Martin. Translation: We're effed.

Take away the Pirates, (Please /Youngman'd), and the Nats only won a single game of every series over these last two weeks. Gulp.

With the Royals, Orioles and some other meh teams coming up, it's now or never, if we're going to pretend we're on the fringes of playoff contention.

Nats Record: 6-7, 31-33 overall; Last in the NL East
Runs Scored: 63 (4.8/game); 279 overall, 10th in the league.
Runs Allowed: 62 (4.8/game); 298, 6th in the league. My brain still refuses to process this. No matter what, I WANT to believe the problem is with the pitching, not the hitting. But by league rank, it's the opposite.
Pythagoras Sez: 30-34. Saint Stephen is exorcising the ghosts of Marquis.

What's Good?

1) Strasburg, Duh. Think about what it's like to face Strasburg. He's got four pitches, 3 of which are as good as anyone's in the league. The fourth, his changeup, is notable because it's faster than a lot of fastballs. One comes in fast and straight as hell. The other comes in fast, but just a tick slower, and darts a tick down and a tick in to a right-handed batter. If you swing at that one with the same swing at the 4-seam, you're hammering it into the ground, having come over top of it. Then there's the curve, ripping through the air as hard as any pitch out there. But it dives down and away. It's not a 12-6 curve. It's like a 12-8 frisbee o' death. (Since my Pope Charles XIV nickname for it didn't catch on, I'm sticking with calling it the Mindbender.)

If you're a batter, you've got a split section to react. You need to identify the type of pitch (ergo its movement), its rough speed (based on the previous) and its location. When he throws that curve, it's starting high. And for a split second, it's probably looking like that high riding 4-seamer. Yet it just dives.

Watch the swings batters take on it. Yep. They're missing it. But look at how they're missing it. It's a half lunge swing more often than not. They get out on their front feet, bend a little, and just sort of wave. They just don't have time to react, given the threat the 4-seamer represents.

Think back to -- and this is the ONLY time you'll ever see a comparison like this! -- when Jason Bergmann (Yes, I went there; apologies) was throwing well. He had a 4-seamer riding high in the zone, with a sharp little slurvy breaking pitch that dived down, often in the dirt. It's a deadly combo.

Those pitches look completely different once they've crossed the plate. But a foot after the pitcher's released 'em, good look telling them apart.

2) Adam Dunn! During this 2-week period, he batted an impressive .348/ .400/ .696. He's now having another career year. The eye's taken a tiny step back, but he has his highest slugging percentage, his highest OPS and his highest adjusted OPS. He's been surprisingly good at first base, battling it to a draw. I'm too lazy to check the numbers, but I bet he's within spitting distance of average by UZR. Add it up, and you've got one of the more valuable 1B in the league. I still wouldn't extend him past two years, but that's a debate for another day. He's damn good now, and that's what immediately matters.

3) Roger Bernadina. Maybe he's the answer in RF? He'll hit the odd homer, but he has zero power. He's basically a singles hitter who plays great defense. What's key is that it seems like he's learning to walk a little bit, turning into the poor man's Willie Harris. Sure, we'd all like to have a huge bat in the corner, but he's hitting /.351/ .444. Add in his + defense, and that's (at worst) a league average RFer. Granted, that slash line's far higher than we should expect going forward, but given the angst surrounding him, you'd think he was hitting like Nyjer.

4) Tyler Clippard! Remember when he was sucking, and idiot bloggers were complaining that if he continued to pitch as much as he was, his arm would fall off, but that he'd blow a whole bunch of other games before he got to that point? Well, that's why you should never listen to bloggers. 7 scorless games with a 9/0 K/BB ratio. Suck it, Bloggers.

5) Drew Storen! It's been nice seeing how well he's reacted to pressure situation. More often than not, he's been thrown right into the fire. It's important that he's handled it. But what it's really done, is extended the bullpen, giving more defined roles to Walker and Burnett. When the Nats are leading or close, Riggles now has 5 guys he can rely on to some degree or another. Then there's White Flag Batista.

What's Bad?

1) Nyjer. .234/ .250/ .277. He's better than this, of course, and there's still a bit of potential in there, but he really benefited from the change in scenery last year coinciding with the hottest streak of his career. Reading msg boards and comments, I think most Nats fans are ready to float him down the Potomac. But what did they expect? OK, that's a stupid question to ask when he's coming off a .250 OBP streak, I guess. Bright side: No inside-the-parkers allowed.

2) Guzman. .224/ .240/ .265. Hit 'em 1 and 2 or 2 and 1. Doesn't matter; they both suck. They say you want the top of your lineup to be a sparkplug. I suppose these guys were, but just to a Yugo or a Vespa.

3) Matt Capps. He allowed runs in 3 of his 6 performances, taking 2 losses. All closers have bad stretches. And in his defense, he was handed an inordinate number of one-run saves. And as we saw with Chad Cordero, even decent closers are going to blow a decent number of one-runners. But what hurt him wasn't that he gacked up the lead. He'd gack up the game. Giving up 1 run in a one-run game isn't bad. Giving up 2? Yeah, that really sucks.

4) Wil Nieves. If it weren't for his delightful music, he'd be another player everyone would want to run out of town. .091/ .125/ .136 for the two weeks explains a lot of the offensive ineptitude. I'm just amazed that this guy was actually in the team's plans coming into spring training. Haven't they been watching the games for the last few years?

5) The Anti-Stammens. I think a few people were surprised when the team sent Craig Stammen down when they opened up a hole for Strasburg. Stammen isn't good, but he's also one of the few pitchers on the team who appears to have a something that could loosely be called "stuff." In his stead, Luis Atilano and JD Martin combined for 25.3 innings and 18 runs. Sigh.


MVP: Adam Dunn, though Zimmerman's .451 obp was pretty sweet.
CY YOUNG: Hmmm... Should we rename this one yet?
AUSTIN KEARNS AWARD: Thanks, Cristian!
JOE HORGAN AWARD: Can't yak 'em away like that, Mr. Capps!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stephen Strasburg: All Star

During Saturday's Phillies broadcast (please, hold your vomit) apparently Buck and McCarver (please, hold your vomit) were talking about the possibility of Stephen Strasburg making the All-Star Game.

Shhhh! I can hear your scoffing all the way from here!

But, as crazy as the idea of throwing a rookie with just a handful of starts to his career out there, there IS precedent for it.

Picture it. The hazy days of 2003. Our beloved team was being led by Jose Vidro in some far-away place called Canadia. Montreal, specifically. Though this is supposedly a real city, we all know better. It was in those halcyon days that a Mr. Dontrelle Willis broke through, twisting, turning, lunging, and gawkily throwing the ball to the plate.

The D-Train didnt leave the minor-league station 'til early May. But once there, he won. And won. And won again. When the All-Star break came, Mr. Willis was 8-1. And who got named a reserve (after the media basically campaigned for him)? Hey, you guessed right. It WAS Dontrelle. Gosh, you're smart!

He was 8-1 with an amazing 1.81 ERA. Though he'd cool off in the second half, it was still good enough for the ROY.

So there's precedent for a rookie who starts the year in the minors to make it to the game. Strasburg would be on the low end, but given his pedigree, and the buzz surrounding him, it makes a whole lotta sense. If he keeps up on rotation, he'll have a total of 7 starts under his belt. Would 5-0 be enough? 6-1?

If he's 5-0 at the break with a 2.50 ERA and 60 strikeouts, he makes it, doesn't he? He may not have the MLB track record, but given how many jerseys he sold in the Great Lakes' armpit, he's certainly one of its biggest stars.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

If That's the Worst Strasburg We'll Get...

... then he's gonna be pretty damn good.

I think it was Jim Kaat who always talked about how often a starter goes out there with good stuff. I think he said that in an average year they'll go out there 5 or 6 times where everything clicks. And 5 or 6 times where you've got nuttin'.

I'm not sure that Strasburg had nothing, but he didn't really look good. Of course there's the 8 strikeouts and 2 hits thing. But if you watched him, you saw him labor.

Some of that was the atrocious mound. During the game, I was twittering John Patterson jokes. It really did seem, for a bit, like he was being as particular as our favorite former prissy ace. But as the cameras focused in more closely, you could see a pit developing, and on a few pitches, you could see his plant foot skid and twist. Ain't good. One wrenched knee would screw him over. Or if he comes through the wrong way, it's not hard to envision a shoulder shredding.

It clearly got into his head, and I think that Riggles probably took him out a batter or two too late. Strasburg lost a little bit of focus -- and he didn't even have to deal with flying midges.


That aside, you saw one of the things that's struck me a little bit from watching him. He doesn't have great command of his pitches. He's getting by on stuff. Now, when you can throw 100 MPH and can throw that Mindbender that no batter's ever going to do a damn thing with, you can get away with it.

But he misses the target an awful lot. He's not wild. Five walks aside (many of those were products of the terrible footing) he usually keeps it in the zone. But it doesn't always go where he's intending it to go.

That's not going to be a problem against lousy teams. And with his stuff, it's probably not going to be a problem period. But it seems like it's a little bit of a chink in the armor.

Maybe Mike Rizzo should've kept him down for another year to work through those issues.

Let the People Sing

I have comment moderation on for posts that are older than two weeks, since I have a hard enough time fending off Chinese handbag spam as it is.  So in the spirit of openness, I'd like to highlight yet another comment I belatedly approved to an old Rob Dibble post.

Take it away, Meathead!

Man your blogs really suck.
Well, technically, I only have one. Well, two, but one's hidden. I hope you're not looking at that one!

Dibble is the best at his craft but he isn't the worst.
I believe that is a tautology.

As for you evaluation of the Nationals, you SUCK at that too.
Sic! Yeah, pretty much. Can't say I nail 'em all.

How about waiting til the All-Star break to say they're just as bad as they were last season.
But what if we're better than we were last season at the All Star Break?

Better yet just stop tying.
Then I'd trip on my shoelaces. As an aside... why don't they make velcro dress shoes? Man, that's what I need.

That would be an improvement for all of us.
What? The velcro shoes? Yeah, I agree!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Giving Thanks for Strasburg

Some of you have figured out that the good folks at SB Nation have suckered me into writing for them on their DC Portal.  I really like what they're doing there, both in terms of content and how they present it.  And they've been covering the piss out of the Nats, so check 'em out.

I'll be writing there once a week, basically doing the same sorts of things I've been doing here, just with fewer swears.  Today's my debut there, and I wrote about (duh) Strasburg.  (They didn't like the Jose Vidro retrospective I had planned on doing I guess)

On the day after Strasmas, we need to give thanks to everyone who made yesterday possible.  So check it out.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

So, Anything Good Happen Today?

I enjoyed Coco quite a bit, thank you.  Though when he played the White Stripes song (what the hell's its name... I'm blanking), I thought my chest was gonna beat out of its chest.  [ed: later... finally came to me as I watched the replay on MASN: "Seven Nation Army"... the same song Strasburg came to the plate to.  Must've been divine intervention by His holiness]

What'd I miss?


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bryce Harper: Superstar or Bust

Sometime tomorrow, Mike Rizzo or someone's going to stand at a podium and announce that the Nats have drafted Bryce Harper -- barring a 6-state murder spree tonight, that is.

The Nats have to draft Harper.  He's got the highest ceiling in what lots of people are saying is a pretty 'meh' draft.  But I don't have to like it.

I dunno.  He's got all the talent in the world, and his potential is undoubtedly incredible.  But my gut (ample as it is) doesn't like it.

We know the good stuff: youth, beating the bejesus out of older players, strong wood bat swing, etc.

But it's the bad that worries me.  If you read scouting reports (in general), they polish turds so hard, you could go blind from the gleam.  Even mediocre players and prospects have comments that minimize their weaknesses and maximize their strengths.  If you look at some of the Nats' previous drafts, you'd have think we'd be full of 23-year old All-Stars on the MLB level.  Look at Chris Marrero, and wonder why he's not yet the next Pat Burrell yet, as some with the team said he'd be.

So it's with that in mind that I worry about some of the negative things we've seen and heard.

First, the glaring one, is the attitude.  There are all sorts of caveats with this, of course.  17 year old athletes are usually jerks.  17 year olds who've been on SI most likely are.  (Anyone heard from Felipe Lopez lately -- no, not that one)  And there's probably something from the hidebound traditional baseball men who're pissed at the JuCo/GED stunt.

But at the same time...  The drawing-the-line-in-the-dirt incident was pretty classless.  And saying that 17 year olds are arrogant admits that there MIGHT be a problem, right?  What if he turns out to have the personality of Ryan Leaf?  What if he thinks that he (and his dad) know the best way to train and prepare?  What if he's not willing to listen to instruction and work on the things the Nats need him to?   What will his hypercompetitive streak (not that that's a bad thing) do when he struggles in pro ball?  Will he channel his frustrations internally?  externally?  will he work harder?  will he work harder on the right things?

Those questions are true of all prospects, really.  But I just hear some of the whispers, and wonder if, since we almost never hear true negative comments about prospects like this, if there's a vein of coal burning underground, since we can see all this smoke.

The other thing I've read is concerns with his type of swing.  Some have wondered whether his longer swing will run into some difficulty against quality breaking pitches in the minors.  Certainly the Nevada Penal League -- or wherever the hell he's playing -- doesn't have the world's greatest assortment of sliders.  He's got the jaw-dropping raw talent, but don't get seduced by that.  (translation: don't be a Bodes)   But could the swing, overall, be a problem?

And if it is, will that attitude/arrogance let him work on it?

And this is all excluding the possibility (probability) of him having to move behind the plate.   That won't make him a bust, but he's likely going to be a RFer, not a C when he makes the majors.

I dunno.  Like I said, the Nats HAVE to draft him.  But I just don't see him as a sure thing.

The history of #1 overall hitters is a great one: Griffey, Chipper, ARod, Baines, Strawberry, etc.  If you draft a hitter, you've probably drafted, at a minimum, a major league regular.  Excluding recent draftees, you've gotta go back to Al Chambers in 1979 to find a hitter taken #1 who was a bust.

So signs point to Harper being a useful player.

But...  I dunno.  I just don't feel it with him.  If I had to guess, this is how I'd break it out:
5% -- HOFer
10% All-Star type
25% MLB Regular
15% Bench regular or short-career regular
45% Coffee/Bust

That's not based on anything, really.  Just my hunches.  And I guess a 40% chance of being at worst a MLB regular isn't a bad thing.

But I think Strasburg's spoiling me (and perhaps us).  Strasburg was so clearly the best player in the draft last year.  And so clearly without any faults or concerns.  He was dominating at a much higher level than Harper is.  And he was doing it with scouts and raw talent that NOBODY was questioning.  And nobody doubted his work ethic either.

He was a no-doubter.  Harper isn't.  But we still gotta take him.  'cause he just might work out.

Stephen Strasburg: Double Threat

We know he can pitch.   But the uberprospect is also 1st among all Nats minor leaguers in batting average (minimum 10 PA).  Is there anything he can't do?

Maybe he could close?  Please, could he close, too!

The People Have Spoken

No, I don't know why I'm up either.

I just found a whole bunch of comments caught up in a queue, lost amongst the Chinese handbag spam.  One of 'em didn't like my take on Rob Dibble.  So to be fair -- I'm nothing, if not fair -- here's a defense of Rob Dibble. (note: supply your own sic)

Fire Dibble.....rubbish...what a bunch of petulant winer's. He wants to see the team he covers win games...and simply expresses an honest opin. "Borders on a sideshow"....huh?....go watch another team play bone head!!! As a long time DC baseball fan I want a guy who's bias towards the Nats. He has my full support.

Well, I'm convinced.

If Nyjer Doesn't Work Out...

Rizzo should send his scouts to check this guy out.  Look at that oppo field swing!

He seems oddly familiar though.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Oh, That Bob!

Reading Bob Carpenter's MASNopus, I was struck by 2 things.  Well, 3 things, though the notion that everything goes back to the Cardinals with him is hardly new.

1) He basically says that Cardinals fans are mindless idiots. (Best fans in baseball, kids!)
2) He acknowledges something we already knew, but it's nice to have confirmation in print: he (and MASN) doesn't try to be objective at all.  He's a fan first, and is going to present the homer take.  (and he apparently thinks he played for the '98 Cards -- maybe that's why he loves Eckstein so much?)


I linked it on the side, but I'll throw it here as well.  This is pretty cool.  It's an ancient image from an electronic scoreboard used to 'show' the game to fans who weren't at the park.  Ever wanted to see what a ghostly electronic Bucky Harris batting in the '24 Series looked like?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Cue the Sax!

Via @rocket1124 comes the best Guzman movie you'll see all day.  If you can resist tapping your toe, or rocking your head from side to side, you're a better man than me.

Oh, and he thinks that Riggleman's a putz.

Bleeding Sharks

I'm browsing Stubhub to see if I can poach a cheap ticket for tomorrow's Stephen Strasburg start, and...  One sec, guys. Phone call.  

-- Hey.  Wanna go see Strasburg pitch tomorrow?  Mark Zuckerman, Adam Kilgore and Dan Steinberg told me he's pitching....  What?  Really?  When?  ....  Huh.  I knew I shouldn't have tuned out stuff from the last week.  Oh well.  Hey, I gotta let you go, I'm trying to finish up a blog post, and I've gotta go get the mac and cheese off the stove....  You too.  Bye.

Sorry about that.    Where was I?  Oh, um, well, I was hoping to see Aaron Harang pitch tomorrow, and I see there are lots of cheap seats.  Apparently Strasburg -- as was speculated by some -- will not be pitching.  Which makes sense considering the 143,000 available on the site.

Here's what I love about that though.    If you sort by quantity, there must be 30 sections that have 20+ seats available.  Those fucking scumbag speculating ticket scalping mofos are taking a bath.  I love it.  They speculated and bought up hundreds of those terrible sun-facing scoreboard seats, and now they've gotta eat them.  Every last one of 'em.  I love it.  I'm getting the same kind of visceral thrill I get when I spray an insect with Raid.  Die, mothers, die! 

Still, their incompetence, and blood suckedness benefits you.  You can get a ticket for $1-2.  Strap your hip flask on, and you've got a cheap night to match the quality of the typical Nats fan's date.