Monday, March 14, 2005


Question six on my Spring Training Preview focused on Mister Zachary Day and his chances of heading to the bullpen.

When the team first floated the idea, I poopooed it, thinking that 180 above-average innings is better than 70. I still think that. But, Day's unconvincing performance in spring training is making it all-the-more likely that he'll begin the year as the Nationals' Ramiro Mendoza (the good one that used to play for the Yankees, not the double agent that's been stinking up the Red Sox uniform the last few years.)

To this point, Day has pitched to a 9.00 ERA. And from the accounts of his outings, it's been about as pretty as you'd suspect -- most lately: two innings, two home runs allowed two walks and three mound visits (a particularly impressive feat in two innings of work!)

In my preview, I said there were other factors in play as well, namely how Jon Rauch and John Patterson performed. The short answer: very well; 1.50 1.80 ERAs respectively.

Spring Training statistics can be horribly misused. Players don't get a lot of innings, or At-Bats, so one particularly horrid performance can have an overly large bearing on the results. And who really cares how a player does against a AAA pitcher or a AA lineup?

Unfortunately, for Day, the scouting reports ain't pretty either.
He appeared to be struggling with his mechanics throughout, mimicking his delivery between pitches as if searching for the proper arm slot. He fell behind batters, and when he got ahead, he failed to put them away. After the second out of the interminable first inning, Day started toward the dugout, having obviously lost track of the number of outs.

"What you don't see Zach doing is making adjustments," Robinson said. "When he goes out in the first inning, he's doing the same thing he's done since he's been here basically. . . . Make them swing the bat. Don't go [from] 0-2 [to] 3-2, to where you have to make a fat pitch.

With the solid pitching they're getting from Rauch and Patterson, I'd be shocked if Day made the rotation, especially considering how they were already taking about the bullpen scenario before he started stinking up the park.

If I was a betting man, I'd say that Jon Rauch has the inside track. Frank Robinson seems like a man who puts a lot of stock in players he's seen before and Rauch's dominant close of last season has to be fresh in their mind (23 innings, 1.5 ERA). And if it's not, every solid outing he's had so far this spring is cementing it in place.

But, it's an issue that's not worth getting too worked up over. You can never really have too many starters, especially with the proclivity towards injury of these guys. If someone tweaks a shoulder or turns taterriffic, there'll be at least two guys in the bullpen capable of starting and pitching quite well.

The Nationals may not have the front-line pitching of some of the other teams in the league (sorry, ¡Ryan!), but they've got more depth than most teams. And Jim Bowden, if you're reading, which I know you're not, but it's a conceit for your humble writer, don't do something stupid like packaging some of the pitching for a marginal improvement in the outfield. The depth at starting pitcher is going to be key for this team as the season drags on and the guys you'd most likely give up (Rauch, Day, Patterson, Armas) are going to be the ones that this team needs to build around.

This isn't a World Series-callibre team. Have some patience with what we have and see what shakes out -- just like you have with Day and the bullpen.


  • The sad thing is that Guzman is an upgrade at SS over what they trotted out there last year!


    Now, don't expect me to explain Vinny! :)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/14/2005 5:38 PM  

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