My wife and I made the hundred-mile drive up to Nationals Park yesterday -- our only Nats game for this season, perhaps. Frankly, we scheduled to come up for the Giants series pretty much because Brandon Belt, who looked like a moderately-capitalized version of Roy Hobbs for Double-A Richmond, was San Francisco's starting first baseman when we made our plans. But then he got sent down to Fresno. Oh well. At any rate, we got to see the Nats post a fairly tidy 5-2 victory over the Giants yesterday.
- You know what the difference is between Jordan Zimmermann and Tony Armas, Jr.? It's the instinct to cheer a pitcher on as he guts out one more pitch against the desire to hang oneself if he has to throw one more pitch. Zimmermann may have taken 10 pitches to finish off pesky Nate Schierholtz and round out six solid innings of work, but TA2 lived to torture us even on his best days
- Although we discussed Zimmermann versus Werth for a moment or two, my wife, in her sound discretion, voted for Zimmermann as player of the game.
- Not to put too fine a point on it, but I believe that Justice Holmes had in mind the 8% who would vote for Alex Cora as player of the game in any game when he wrote the opinion in Buck v. Bell
- Tyler Clippard looks like a nerdy Terminator out there. Just love the guy. Eight of Clippard's 14 appearances have been for more than three outs. Surely he's due for a couple weeks' worth of implosions at some point fairly soon, but when he's in a groove, he's good for performances surpassing today's (at most) one-inning, one-inning, one-inning litany of middle men.
- Which reminds me: Is that kind of usage pattern smart long-term? FJB has touched on that subject a couple of times (here
). Well, a couple questions are begged -- Do the Nationals think they'll be good this year? and Is any middle reliever a steady enough performer that he needs to be "saved" for future seasons? To combine the questions into one, I'd suppose the issue is whether the Nats anticipate if they'll be able to rely on Clippard when it comes time to contend.
- And that
reminds me of the Saul Rivera Principle from years past. This principle comes from the "Light it if you've got it" line of reasoning. Basically, you might as well run Saul Rivera into the ground because, well, he's Saul Rivera
. Use him a lot when he's pitching well (because you've got no one better), and then discard him when he's not (and hope you have someone better by that time). Tyler Clippard's a better pitcher than Saul Rivera, of course, but is just he a better version of Saul Rivera for a better version of the Nationals? Or is he a part of a contending bullpen -- whenever the Nats become a contender?
- And say, the Nats look okay! As Phil Wood reminded motorists dozens of times after the game, the Nats have held their own without Ryan Zimmerman -- sure enough, they have. Who knows if the pitching will hold up, but it's very pleasant to see the Nats comfortably below the league average in team ERA. What is more, the Nats are benefitting from a reversal of pretty much a return-to-DC-baseball-long trend -- their starting pitchers are now going deeper into games than the average NL club, deeper, in fact, than just about any team that doesn't have Halladay and Lee fronting its rotation. Going five innings or more in 27 straight games is a neat piece of trivia, but the real key has been the value that the starters have added by going consistently beyond that fifteenth out.
- Still, to have Hairston, Cora, and
Bixler all on the roster at any given point in time seems sort of pathetic -- and that's not even getting to Matt Stairs. Phil Wood seemed to be suggesting something sort of creative, like Morse putting in some time at third. I dunno. But here's a fun fact: Morse was Seattle's starting shortstop for that 2005 Tony Armas torture game linked above. That was before Morse's career reinvention, though.
- This is a bit unfair to mention, since it was the first day of May (and rather chilly and drizzly at that), but Nationals Park was pretty much dead throughout. The stupid between-innings stuff was still stupid, but felt more like an afterthought -- they've stopped even trying to sell it. Only the slow-reveal game with the Topps card on the video board seemed interesting, and that's just because I was imagining all the mischief you could do when September call-ups come around. "Oh, sorry kid, it was Joe Bisenius." The Presidents Race seems very pro forma
at this point.
- Finally, yes, the horn kind of sucks.