Saturday, April 30, 2005

Rainy Day Round Up

-- Tony Osuna had a 'setback' in his rehab. He has a sore elbow. That's not a good sign, especially given his loooooong injury histroy. He'll take some time off, then give it another try later.

-- Tomo Ohka retakes the mound on Tuesday against LA. (The Times says Tuesday, ESPN says Monday) Either way, he'll have to throw more strikes than he has been.

-- MASN signed a deal with Direct TV. So now DTV subscribers can see all the Nats games they care to watch. How that helps fans like me -- young apartment or condo dwellers -- I dunno. It's a step though, I guess.

In the DC region, only games not on UPN-20 will be shown. Outside the DC area, where UPN-20 isn't carried, such as Anne Arundel County, all games will be shown. Good for the Annapolites.

-- Here's everything you want to know about your favorite former Met-turned-Marlin-turned-Yankee, Ed Yarnall. The lefty is stashed in New Orleans, fighting out Joe Horgan for the right to be our second lefty.

Joe Torre hates all rookies and doesn't trust many pitchers. Yarnall had decent potential, but never got a fair shot. He's bounced around the minors and Japan since.

He could still be useful, but primarily as a reliever now. His problem is that his walks are too high and his strikeouts too low. But, that sounds like most of our pitchers anyway.

-- Larry Broadway will be out two weeks or so after spraining his knee tracking down a popup.

-- Tony Armas, who it was decided will stay in the minors a bit longer, and Claudio Vargas both have rehab starts this weekend.

One-Man Wrecking Crew

Once Livan dismissed Navil from the mound, the game went very well for the Nationals. Livan did it all. He pitched. He hit. And he fielded. The baseball equivalent of the ol' Gordie Howe hat trick.

Throw in his slow, stylized saunter around the bases and a pitch that nailed one of the Mets after both teams were warned, and he added a little spark to what's been a pretty mundane team lately. That's a Majority Whip-winning performance if there ever was one.

Jose Guillen, who had his extension picked up earlier in the day, ripped a solo HR.

$4MM for Guillen isn't a bad price, but as I posted on the BPG forum, what's the point in extending him now? What if he goes postal and beats Frank with a bat (the way we want to sometimes), or what Livan sits on him and breaks him?

There are too many variables at this point. I don't see what the rush is. Let him earn it first. And 20 games isn't enough to prove anything (Other than that Guzman sucks.)

Livan threw 156 pitches, or so it seemed like it. (Phew! Only 130!?!?!?!) Lemme repeat that.... 130!?!?!?! Damn.

Cordero came in in the 9th, after some bad defense by Guzman, shocking I know, created a save situation out of thin air. Two outs later, the game was over.

Game time is at 7 tonight. I'll be in my customary seats. Hopefully dodging the rain. Depending on what weather shmuck you listen to it'll either be Sahara-like at first pitch, or we'll be in the midst of a 100-year flood.

Either way, it's torture on the field: The non-strike-throwing Puberty Boy Zach Day, versus the agonizingly slow-delivering non-strike-throwing object-of-mets-fans-fury, Victor "I ain't Carlos" Zambrano. Neither starter sees the 6th, I bet.

Over/Under on combined walks: 8.5. Gentlemen, place your bets.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Game Day: Seo What? Edition

The hated New York Mets are in town (if you couldn't tell by the stench).The Lone Literate Met Fan

Tonight, it's Jay "So" Seo (1-0, 1.50) versus ¡Livan! "I Transcend Petty Nicknames" Hernandez (2-2, 5.34!?)

As always, the chatter's here.

Since the disastrous start, the Mets have played pretty well. Since our amazing start, we've been pretty disastrous.

The MASN Mess'n

From bad to worse?
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos will receive a payment of $75 million for the Washington Nationals' 10 percent stake in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the new TV venture formed to air Nationals and Orioles games.

Major League Baseball (MLB) will pay the first $37.5 million of the fee due June 30, according to sources familiar with the agreement that MLB struck with Mr. Angelos in March.

A senior baseball official said that MLB's central office will make the payment.

However, some groups seeking to buy the Nationals fear that MLB, which owns the Nationals, will seek to indirectly recoup the money when it auctions off the team this year.

Who will make the second payment of $37.5 million, due June 30, 2006, is not clear. Some sources think the Nationals' new owners ultimately will be responsible for the full $75 million.

The $75 MM payment represents the 10% stake in MASN the Nationals 'earned' as part of the Angelos bribe. There's no word on whether the serial numbers of the bills need to be non-consecutive, or whether they need to exchange it in front of the Paper Moon Diner, or if they can just stuff it in a duffle bag in a locker at the newly-renamed Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Either way, my once-respectable, but now highly-dubious math skills tell me, that they're valuing MASN at $750 MM. Those same eroded math skillzzz tell me that's a freakin' quarter of a freakin' billion dollars!

I'm certainly no expert in TV network valuation, but doesn't that seem a little.... high?

The always-valuable (but not $750 MM worth of value) Eric Fisher answers that in a diplomatic way, to say the least:
[The high price of the network is] a reflection of the optimism that MLB and the Orioles have in the venture and the growing importance of team-owned regional TV networks in professional sports.
An 80 percent stake in the New England Sports Network, for example, added an estimated $250 million to $300 million to the sale of the Boston Red Sox three years ago.

Yeah... maybe I AM an expert in TV valuation. A network that has carriage everywhere from Stamford to Burlington, all the way to Quoddy Head and a team that's one of the most popular draw in the entire country, let alone New England, is valued at three times as much? I don't know how the populations match up -- and I don't really want to guess -- but I feel comfortable assuming (Knowing full-well that that could make an ass out of you and me) that MASN's isn't reaching three times the number of people as NESN.

As Jack Evans says in the article, "Why would [MLB] make a deal like that? It doesn't make any sense. They're bidding against themselves."

The article creates a few more troubling questions -- ones that have lingered in my mind, but still don't have any sort of firm resolution. This one has always made me wonder:
The agreement between Mr. Angelos and MLB mandates parity in the TV distribution of the games of both clubs. The Orioles plan to move their local pay TV games from Comcast SportsNet to MASN in 2007, and the network intends to show the same number of games for each club and provide equal exposure for each in the other's market

If they want to show the same number of games and have equal coverage, that seems great. Yet, unless they're able to clear two stations, or paw off some of their coverage to local affiliates, which would seemingly defeat the point of MASN, doesn't this mean there'll be fewer Nationals games and Orioles games on TV? 90% of their games will take place at the same time.
And if there's equal exposure in both markets, one's going to have to be relegated to the ether, taking place only for those fans actually in the stands.

In NY, where springtime is hell with the Yankees, Mets, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, Knicks, Devils all playing, they're good about clearing space for the secondary broadcasts.

But here, MASN is working with a clearly pissed-off Comcast, who has less interest in airing MASN than showing that God Awful "Faith Walk" public access show with the American Idol reject gospel singers 'singers'.

Getting them to air MASN alone is proving to be difficult enough. Clearing an extra station ain't gonna be easy!

And Direct TV is not an option for most people either. Many apartment and condo dwellers simply don't have access. Comcast knows that.

So, for now, as it has been, it's MLB.TV. It's a start. But, hopefully not the end.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

While Strolling Through The Stats One Day....

The evil IT Nazis don't have their hooks into my home computers -- yet. But, I'm sure they have their eyes gazing warily in my direction. Thank God I'm wearing my aluminum foil-lined Nats cap. It's stylish AND functional.

Time for a stroll around the stats -- this time using teams that are actually IN the National League. All places are out of 16 teams.

Runs Scored -- 91 (12th) Pitt is in last place with 57!?
Batting Average -- .268 (7th)
On-Base Percentage -- .325 (11th)
Slugging Percentage -- .432 (4th)
OPS -- .756 (8th)

That's a pretty telling story right there. It also shows the folly of ranking teams by batting average. On-base percentage typically has a more direct relationship with the number of runs scored by a team than any other stat. It's not perfect, but it's better than any other standard stat.

Someone who looked at those stats blindly would be able to tell a lot about the kind of team we have, and they'd probably be pretty close.

They'd see a team that gets its fair share of base hits, but is below average at getting runners on via other means. They'd see a team that rakes extra-base hits, but, because there aren't a ton of runners on, those hits are 'wasted'. They'd also probably be able to take a reasonable guess that the team isn't hitting with runners in scoring position. It's been a very wasteful and inefficient offense.

Home Runs -- 20 (9th)
Triples -- 10 (1st)
Doubles -- 41 (5th)
Total Bases -- 319 (4th)

They could look at those stats and see that the high slugging isn't necessarily a product of the team slugging home runs. They're below average, even. But, they're ripping doubles and triples. Is that a sign of gap power? Is that a sign of the park they're playing in? Are they just not power hitters?

I'd guess it's park factor at this point mostly. There seem to be a ton of balls into the deep gaps, which increases doubles and triples, but just swallows homers. The majority of home runs have been down the lines. The only home run to the gap that I can recall (and I'm sure I'm missing one or two) is the one Nick Johnson drilled off the clock the other game.

Walks -- 59 (15th)
Strikeouts -- 140 (7th)
Pitches Per Plate Appearance -- 3.58 (15th)
BB/K Ratio -- .42 (16th)

These stats tell the true story of this team and demonstrate the incredible lack of patience this team displays. They're hardly walking. They're striking out quite a bit, but that's not a number that's scary in isolation. Where it presents a problem is in synch with the lack of patience. The BB/K ratio is simply atrocious.

This is a team that doesn't control the strikezone. It doesn't wait for the pitchers to make mistakes, swinging freely at most anything in the zone, especially early in the count.

That's troubling from a strategic reason, in part, because it means they're not making the starters work all that hard. Starters can go deeper into the game and we completely avoid the soft underbelly of major league teams: middle relief.

Think about the few offensive explosions this team has had -- the 9th inning in Atlanta or the Sunday home game against the Diamondbacks. What did both those rallies have in common? Beating the crap out of mediocre middle relievers. Unfortunately, we've mostly faced starters, setup men, or closers.

When you're facing the other team's best, it's hard to score a lot of runs.

Pitching-wise it's a little bit better.

ERA -- 4.50 (11th)
WHIP -- 1.43 (11th)
K/9 -- 5.71 (13th)
OBP Allowed -- .337 (11th)
BB -- 83 (4th)
DIPS ERA -- 4.17 (7th)

At least the numbers, walks exluded, are consistent.

The pitching has almost been the inverse of the hitting -- it strikes out too few batters, and walks too many.

Other than the walks, which are abnormally high (Thanks, Tomo!), that's about what you should expect from this team. It lacks a true power pitcher. Livan has notched his share of Ks, but that's primarily a product of the number of innings he pitches.

It's a kind of staff that encourages the other team to put the ball in play. It's a strategy that can work if you play great defense behind them, which hasn't really been the case. (The defense has been decent, but there are some weak spots, especially range-wise.)

The encouraging number from all that is the DIPS ERA. I suspect many of you are familiar with it. If not, a quick summary of it is that it looks at things the pitcher can control -- homers, strikeouts, walks, etc -- while ignoring others, such as hits. Using those controllable figures, it projects an ERA.

Based on our pitchers' controllable stats, the team ERA is underperforming. I suspect that much of that lies on the arms of Joe Horgan and Tony Osuna, especially this early in the season when little variations can still have huge impacts.

Regardless, there's hope that the pitching, with some better luck, will start producing marginally better results.

So what did we learn?

We can slug with the best of them, walk with the worst of them. We can't hit with runners on. And our pitchers walk too many freakin' batters.

But, did we really need stats to tell us that? Anyone who's watched a handful of games (and that's most of you because all they show are a handful!) can identify these problems.

Still, it's nice to know that the stats are confirming what we're seeing with our eyes.

WaPo: One Of Hitler's Minions

As you can tell, I’ve got nothing today. I was going to use the hoary ol’ standby: a wonderful traipse through the delightful world of statistics. But, thanks to the IT Nazis and their fleet of Panzer-powered web filters, I’m blocked out from much of the developing world (read: baseball and porn).

Enter our beloved hometown broadsheet, the Washington Post. Their website is so chaotically organized, containing so many different subsections, and has stories and articles that are cross-linked in so many different ways in those different subsections, that with a few clicks, one is able to avoid the Web Frau if one knows where to look.

Imagine my excitement then, when I stumbled across the Post’s baseball stat section! Screw you and your impotent Goebbels-sanctioned powers, WebSense Corporation!

So, with much glee, I’ve been compiling the on-pace blurbs once a week. And everything looked kosher, but I had a dread feeling.

Today, I started looking at our rankings within the league. Here’s National League Team Batting, for example.

I copied the numbers into excel, started sorting them and writing up a blurb, just like I did the previous week. Halfway through I noticed something odd. If you click on the link, look at it for a second or two, you’ll see what I mean.

I knew the Nationals batters were hitting like crap lately, but somehow they’re ranked behind the New York Yankees in National League team batting average -- an impressive feat, no doubt! Curses! The IT Luftwaffe had strategically bombed the data, rendering it useless to all! (Unless the Yankees had magically been transferred to the NL, along with the Angels and ChiSox, but even Hitler didn't mess with the League structure in WWII.)

So screw you and your band of computerized Hitlers! And screw you Washington Post for running junk AP-hosted stats! And while we’re at it, how come you don’t have box scores online? Yeah, I can just (hypothetically, were I not being persecuted) click on ESPN, but if you want to be the source, would it be so hard to just run it along with the gamer?

Or maybe the WaPo hates me too.

--Links Fixed--

The Dumbest Chat Ever

Screech on Screech!

I don't even know what to say.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ya Win Some. Ya Lose Some. But Mostly Lose Some.

Eh. I'm depressed after this one. It was a well-played, relatively crisp game. Esteban Loaiza pitched the hell outta the ball. Brett Myers, despite walking everything that came to the plate in the first few innings, shut us down. Nil Nil, headed to the ninth. It doesn't get much better than that.

You know what happened in the ninth. Crap happens when you can't score runs. But, it certainly does seem like the better our starters pitch, the worse our hitters hit. Somewhere, we've gotta find a happy medium. Maybe we'll start friday.Nice Move, Myers!

It's hard to pick out a Lame Duck in this game, but this is DC. And no matter how big, or tiny the program, when something starts going wrong and the press start pouncing, someone must be blamed.

And I hate to do this to him, but I'm looking your direction, Brad Wilkerson. He's been this team's Atlas lately, and things looked promising after his first plate appearance, when he battled Myers for six pitches before earning a walk. But, then he had to go and be stupid and get picked off.

It was particularly annoying, because Myers threw over about 15 times to keep Wilkerson close. The 16th time was the charm, forcing Wilkerson to make the slow walk of shame across the diamond back to the dugout.

Apparently, the walk of shame deflated his confidence. He finished the game 0-3 with another two strikeouts.

I also think he misplayed a ball -- or at least made a poor decision in the field. In the second inning, Jason Michaels hit a ball into the hole between second and first. Jose Vidro didn't come within 15 feet of the 42-hopper. Wilkerson had peeled off early to retreat to the bag. I didn't have the benefit of a replay, but it seemed like a play that had to be made by one of them. Neither did, and it was the Phillies lone hit until the 8th.

WTF Frank Senior Moment
I'm not going to quibble with Loaiza coming out to start the ninth. If I was managing the team, I would've patted him on the ass after the 8th and said thanks, but I can see the argument for leaving him out there. (Although, the 10-pitch AB to Placido Polanco was pretty telling -- it's easy to see a starter's losing it when the opposing team starts fouling off pitches they were missing earlier in the game)

What I will quibble with is allowing Loaiza to face the next batter, Kenny Lofton. Lofton was the first of four straight lefty batters to come up. Joey Eischen, fresh off his whole day off, had been warming early and should've been ready. As soon as Jimmy Rollins's ball cleared the wall, Frank should've been on his way to the dugout.

Loaiza was spent. He gave it everything. And it's a shame he had to have an additional run charged to his line.

Other than that, Frank managed a good game. It was interesting to see Tony Blanco come out once again to PH against a lefty instead of JJ Davis. One of them's headed somewhere soon.

Cristian Guzman had two hits, including an ugly bunt single. He hit it hard to the right side, past the pitcher towards the first basemen. Off the bat, it looked like an easy out. But, Jim Thome played the ball as if he were a breaching whale, giving the Li'l scamp enough time to beat it out. Earlier, he nailed a line drive to centerfield. Progress. I'll take it.

Game Day! Phillies At Nationals

Chatter Away!

I'll be at the game, so you won't have to put up with me droning and rambling nonsensically.

First pitch: 4:35

Esteban Loaiza 0-1, 4.74 versus Brett Myers 1-1, 1.71

Gandhi Nods

I forgot to link this earlier, but DC CFO Natwar Gandhi recertified his earlier numbers of $161 MM for land acquisition costs related to the ballpakr. This is just under the $165 MM cap that would've triggered ballpark armageddon.

David Catania and some local business interests have teamed up trying to derail the stadium -- at least frome being built in that location.
"Once again, the chief fictional officer is perpetrating a fraud on District taxpayers," said D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and firm opponent of the ballpark project. He said he thinks the $77.1 million pegged for land acquisition is off by as much as $100 million. "He has become more absurd by the day. I really don't think he's capable of conducting a study on this in a truthful and honest fashion."

Miss Utilility

Thom Loverro writes about the problems with this team’s roster construction. It’s something I’ve thought about a little bit -- especially in the way that Frank does and doesn’t use it -- especially after the last two games.

With an 11-man pitching staff, which is working out well when the starters give us more than 4 innings, that leaves a 6-man bench. Ours is less than optimal. We’ve got too many outfielders and too few infielders.

And that has a direct bearing on the game, when Frank hesitates to pinch hit for Cristian Guzman because there’s only one middle infielder on the roster.

Coming into the season, I thought the bench would be a strength. In the early goings, at least, I was wrong.

Terrmel Sledge and JJ Davis looked like the power bats that a team needs to come off the bench to put the fear of God into opposing relief pitchers. Sledge has hit. Davis hasn’t. He hasn’t even looked decent out there, flailing at pitches high and low, and showing an amazing ability on defense to magically turn hard-hit singles into extra-base hits that roll all the way to the wall.

Gary Bennett’s been a back-up catcher. Nuff Said.

Carlos Baerga didn’t have any value before the season. He retains the same value to the team now.

Someone somewhere remarked how he sorta looks like Screech. I agree, sort of. He’s an upside-down version of the bird. He’s just really thick through the hips and thighs, contributing to his incredible lack of speed or mobility.

The guy can’t hit either. Just can’t. He had a decent season as primarily a pinch-hitter two years ago, for the Diamondbacks in their offensive-oriented ballpark. Last year, he was a non-entity.

If he can’t hit, he’s worse than nothing, especially because he’s a net negative defensively -- with a demonstrated inability to field competently at 8 of the 9 positions (and that’s only because he hasn’t pitched).

And then there’s Tony Blanco. We love ya Tony, but you should be mashing PCL pitching now. He’s an atrocious defensive player, no matter where you slide him, and his bat has a long, looping swing. It’s a lot like Darryl Strawberry’s was -- except without the bat speed, strength, or compactness!

Of those five, four are close to non-entities. Only Sledge has shown any real value, and he’s been promoted to the starting lineup.

That leaves Jamey Carroll and Ryan Church.

The much-beloved Ryan Church just hasn’t done anything -- yet. He’s played an excellent defensive centerfield, but hasn’t hit -- either while he was starting or pinch-hitting. He doesn’t really have anything to prove at New Orleans, so sending him down isn’t much of a choice, but he’s not going to get a ton of playing time here either -- as long as Nick Johnson remains reasonably upright.

Jamey Carroll has been excellent, filling in in the middle infield and picking up some garbage time playing time. I would love to see Frank get more aggressive with hitting for Guzman -- either with Carroll or one of the outfielders. He’s about the only person on the bench who has some utility, primarily because of his versatility and on-base skills.

It hasn’t been pretty. And it certainly hasn’t helped us win any games, but something’s going to have to give at some point.

Each of the last two games, Blanco has pinch-hit before Davis. I don’t know if that’s a change in the depth chart, or if Frank’s just trying to dust the cobwebs off Blanco’s bat to see if he’s worth keeping. Neither can be sent down freely. Davis would have to clear waivers (and even though he played like crap this year, someone would take a gamble based on his minor league numbers), and Blanco would have to be offered back to the Reds, barring a trade.

I’d dump Davis. He’s shown next to nothing, and we’ll have another right-handed OFer who’ll need a spot sooner or later -- assuming Alex Escobar can stay healthy!

While I was at it, I’d dump Carlos Baerga too. He’s shown nothing either. Henry Mateo will be coming off the disabled list within the next two weeks or so, and should take Baerga’s slot. Mateo is a Rey Ordonez-level hitter. But, he does play the middle infield, giving him more utility than Baerga. (And more importantly, it’d free up Jamey Carroll to be used more liberally.)

It’s certainly not the bench the ’98 Yankees had with Strawberry and Tim Raines able to pinch-hit, but it’s an average bench -- one that won’t hold the team back.

The Sermon On The Mount

St. Barry's chatting at two today. Please pepper him with non-O's-related questions! I'm sick of reading them.

Over/Under on questions answered from Rosslyn: 5.5

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Atlas Shrugged

Wilkerson Carrying the Load...Again!That's the winning formula.

6+ innings of solid pitching and two bombs for the runs.

It won't win every game, but it'll win most games.

John Patterson pitched great, only giving up one run, but this team's problem with walks continued, as he chipped in another four to the team's total. Combined with his six strikeouts and the pitch count climbed early and often. He was completely out of gas by the time Big Frank sauntered to the mound with the tying runs on base and the winning run at the plate.

But the real heroes of the game were the same two men who've been carrying the team lately, Nick Johnson and Brad Wilkerson (Pictured At Right--bonus points for anyone identifying the location).

NJ proved that it is actually possible to hit a ball over the wall to the gap at RFK. His first-inning bomb tied the score at 1. Later, he'd leave the game after fouling a ball off his kneecap (please be healthy, please!). And that's where the Majority Whip stepped up, and in.

Brad Wilkerson, despite not having played one inning of first base this season, even in spring, stepped in and played a flawless first base in NJ's stead -- Just as he had flawlessly stepped in to play center on Opening Day with nary an inning's worth of work there during the spring.

But, defensive prowess is not enough to win the Whip, oh no! What did this team's Atlas do to solidify his award? In the fifth inning, after John Patterson laced a double down the right-field line, he did what all true leaders do: Whack the hell outta the ball. Wilkerson's shot cleared the outfield wall. And thensome. Some lucky fan in the 400 section, in the upper deck, got a souvenir he certainly wasn't expecting. 3-1 was the score. And the ballgame was over. When the team's needed a big hit lately, The Kentucky Masher's been there.

John Lieber wasn't himself, falling behind many Nationals batters and surrendering 3 walks in just 6 innings. Well, maybe he was himself, and the early-season Lieber's the one out of whack with reality!

Chad Cordero came in in the 9th, and despite falling behind 3-0 to the lead-off batter, rallied back and had an easy 1,2,3 inning.

Gary Majewski relieved Patterson in the 7th, and faced Jim Thome with two runners on. He got Thome on an easy out. Majewski's definitely pitching like he deserves a more prominent role in the pen.

WTF Frank Senior Moment
1. Bringing Majewski in! It worked, but was definitely a head scratcher. Frank's shown a willingness to bring Joey Eischen in at any time in any situation. Except for tonight, when the situation called for it. Patterson's pitch count was climbing and Eischen probably should have been the one on the mound to face Bobby Abreu and Thome. Patterson walked Abreu. And Majewski got Thome.

It's not so much that I have a problem with Majewski coming in, but if you're going to bring in Eischen to get a lefty in an 11-4 game, why not in a 3-1 game?

2. 8th inning and Terrmel Sledge singles to put runners at the corners. Frank pinch runs JJ Davis for Sledge. Wha??

Sledge isn't slow, but Davis isn't especially fast either. Even assuming there's a difference between the two, it's marginal, at best.

Plus, already up 3-1 and with 2 outs in the inning, Davis' run doesn't mean a ton -- and isn't that likely to come around to score anyway.

So, there's not much of a benefit to pinch running in that situation.

Now, anyone who's watched a few games of these two in the outfield instantly knows that Sledge is a vastly superior defensive outfielder. It's not even close.

Davis plays outs into singles and singles into doubles. He has shown an alarming inability to cut balls off before they roll to the outfield wall.

There's pretty clearly a benefit to having Sledge out there defensively.

It's another play that, while it didn't cost us this time, might come back to bite us sometime.

I keep hammering the point, but Frank's been doing everything in his power to shave our margin for error as closely as his can. That ain't good!

But, what the hell do I have to complain about? We're 11-10 fer Crissake! Would anyone have bet we'd be 11-10 at this point? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Game Day! Phillies At Nationals

It's Jon/John night at the ballpark!

Theirs: Lieber 4-0 2.73 ERA
Ours: Patterson 1-1 0.86 ERA

Who'll come out on top?

Yuda's got the chatter going. And hopefully his won't break!

You Know He Stinks When...

WaPo Orioles beat writer Jorge Arangure (Why can't their beat writers have easy to spell last names?) chatted today and had the single best (and most telling) exchange of any of the WaPo chats:

Washington, D.C.: Did you see Guzman's error yesterday? I worry about him, because now his "funk" seems to be spreading to his defense too. That's two straight games I've been to where he makes a HUGE/crazy error. What's next for him?

Jorge Arangure: I didn't see Guzman's error. But it must have been really bad since I'm getting a bunch of questions about why he's been terrible.

You know you're bad when opposing teams' beat writers are getting peppered with questions about how much you suck!

Groin Strain Update

Tony Armas made the last of his scheduled rehab starts for New Orleans yesterday. Based on performance to date, it probably won't be the last.

He went five innings, gave up six runs and 'scattered' nine hits. (That looks mysteriously like Tomo Ohka's typical line!)

It's looking increasingly likely that Jon Rauch is going to get his chance to supplant Ohka or Zach "Puberty Boy" Day in the rotation.

'Round And 'Round We Go

Even with District of Baseball playing hooky, there's always Yurasko for your daily news roundup.

Here are some other exciting and not-so exciting stories.
  • Jim Bowden's contract expires Saturday. (It's too bad Cristian Guzman's lasts for 3+ more!).

    An extension would be only through the end of the year, because MLB really wants to unload this team.

  • They're going to rebuild the mound as soon as this homestand is over on Sunday.

    TJ Tucker's shredded groin says thanks.

  • The Baltimore Business Journal gives the Joe Friday Just The Facts Approach to the MASN ad in the Post.

    Eric Fisher writes about how the lawsuit's going to screw up the ownership process. (Can something that's not moving slow down?)

  • Here's a look at the bat boy, Jonathon Kolker. I'm assuming he's not the only one!

    But, he's not much of a boy. He's 20 freakin' years old. I guess that makes him a... wait for it... wait for it.... a Bat Man? (Aren't you glad you waited now?)

  • As if the RFK groundscrew weren't having enough problems, apparently, they decided DC United needed a parallelogram pitch for their game on Saturday night. (Or maybe it was trapezoidal?)

  • Frank Robinson has been hauled before Congress. Not steroids, but testifying on working past retirement age. There are plenty of potential jokes there. Feel free to chuckle amongst yourselves.

    But, on a semi-serious note, what's the point in having him testify? Is he going to advocate jobs in professional baseball for today's seniors?

  • Jon Lieber versus John Patterson tonight, a match-up of each team's 'aces'. Lieber's been solid this year, and Patterson, who really needs a nickname, has been amazing.

    In JPIII's three starts, he's faced Josh Beckett, Russ Ortiz, and John Smoltz. Lieber's not in the class of two of them, but he's definitely a 1-A. Hopefully I won't have to write the phrase "Hard-Luck Loss" tonight.

Our Eighth Grade

We're 20 games in, 1/8th of the season is over (Close enough, at least!).

Excepting the three-game soirée with the D-backs, we've played 20 games intra-division, and pulled out a 10-10 record. We're 4-4 at home and 6-6 on the road. The 6-6 on the road against divisional foes is certainly great, and playoff caliber, but the home record needs work. After this homestand ends, we're on the road for most of May.

The bright side is there are some 'easy' teams in that stretch: Arizona, Cincinnati, SanFran. And our home-stand includes a four-game stretch against the apathy-inducing Brewers. We've got a decent chance to come out of May in a pretty good spot. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

This is a team that still has major issues on the mound. The starters don't go deep in games, and they walk far too many batters. I don't think we've retired an opposing pitcher in a non-sacrifice situation yet this year! And with the injuries and ineptness, the whole staff is in a state of turmoil. Hopefully Livan will figure out what's been bothering him, and Jon Rauch can add some fresh blood and some called strikes to this staff.

Offensively, the problems are obvious. When you look at some of the numbers of some of the players on this team, it's amazing we are where we are. (Guzman, Schneider--his overall numbers stink, but he's had some big hits, and Church in particular)

But, what's most troubling is our inability to beat the snot out of crappy pitching. We've certainly faced our share of aces, but we've also had three different cracks at replacements for fifth starters. And we've barely touched them either.

And, if you take away the few big 7th innings we had at the beginning of the homestand, we never get hits with RISP.

It hasn't been pretty so far, but it's been moderately effective. 10-10 is pretty close to the high water mark for reasonable expectations at this point. It's just frustrating knowing that they could be so much more if a handful of plays had turned the other way.

But, that's what makes baseball great. A seemingly-meaningless bounce of the ball in a ho-hum game in April could be the difference between October pleasures or September crying.

Runs Scored: 86
Runs Allowed: 85
Pythagorean Pace: 82-80
Actual Pace: 81-81

Brad Wilkerson: 73 doubles; 16 triples; 16 HR; 243 hits; 178 Ks. .418 OBP.
Nick Johnson: .412 OBP; 41 doubles; 97 BBs
Jose Vidro: 121 Runs; 32 HR; 49 doubles; 122 RBI; .410 OBP
Jose Guillen: 194 hits; 41 HR; 105 RBI; 32 Sac Flies; 16 BBs; .321 OBP
Vinny Castilla: 57 doubles; 24 HRs; 16 SBs; 97 RBI; .424 OBP
Brian Schneider: 41 doubles; 8 HR; 16 Es; .297 OBP
Cristian Guzman: 105 hits; 24 RBI; 24 BB; 24 Runs; 24 Errors; .208 OBP

Livan Hernandez: 16-16; 259 IP; 105 BB; 129 K; 5.34 ERA
John Patterson: 8-8; 170 IP; 32 BB; 137 K; 0.86 ERA
Tomo Ohka: 8-24; 162 IP; 122 BB; 57 K; 24 HR; 5.85 ERA
Chad Cordero: 16-8; 86.1 IP; 81 GP; 24 Sv
Luis Ayala: 89 GP; 92 IP
Joey Eischen: 105 GP; 67.1 IP

Monday, April 25, 2005


That's What Would Levar Burton Do for you pagans out there.

He'd most likely say, "but you don't have to take my word for it."

To get a feeling for how crappy Cristian's start has been, the mysterious Nationals Inquirer crunches the numbers to see what it'd take him just to get back to mediocrity.

While you're there, check out his look at the MASN-Comcast-Orioles three-way-o-fun. Briefs'll be flying everywhere. And all I know is that you and I are the ones getting screwed.

The Sacrificial Lamb...Errr... Duck!

DOINK!'S'bout Time. Without a doubt (especially after Nick Johnson rebounded from a crappy day at the plate with a big hit in the ninth), Cristian Guzman, this team's worst player, and perhaps the worst shortstop in the league not named Neifi, wins the Lame Duck. He, more than anyone, is the reason we lost this game.

Zach Day was pitching crappily and was on the edge of getting roughed up every time he stepped to the rubber. In the 6th inning, having already given up 3 runs. He walked the lead-off batter. And then, came the Lame Duck-clinching play. Easy groundball right to Guzman for the Phils-crushing double play! But... Guzman reaches down for the ball, starts the shovel toss to Jose Vidro, and forgets to grab the ball. It just sits there for what seemed like a month. He goes back, scoops it up and fires to first, far too late to make a damn bit of difference.

Instead of none on and two outs, it's two on and none out. The Phillies scored 2 runs, thanks to the two extra outs. Had Guzman made even one out, the inning ends with no runs scoring.

Is it just me or do these things always, ALWAYS come back to bite this team in the ass?

And again, we allowed the opposing pitcher free reign of the base paths. Crappy Lidle (File Photo) had an RBI single and was walked on four freakin' pitches. Day was even removed in the middle of a Lidle AB, when he refused to throw strikes to a sacrificing Lidle. If the pitcher's giving you an easy out, take it!

Brad Wilkerson continued his domination of NL East pitching, slicing out another three hits. Jose Vidro had an ok night. Three hits are great, but he couldn't get the big one at the end of the game with the tying run on third, and he misplayed a ball earlier in the game, which led to an early run.

The team pounded out two more triples (Brian Schneider and Vidro). RFK is the second coming of Exposition Park!

Terrmel Sledge only had one hit, but his approach at the plate continues to amaze me. He's a lot like Nick Johnson in that he's very selective, waiting for the right pitch to nail. Even if he's not getting the results, he's not popping pitcher's pitches up just because they're the first strikes he sees.

Joey Eischen came in, making it 43 straight games he's appeared in! :P Seriously, he's on pace for 105 appearances. Even if that's scattered over 67 innings, at this pace, that still can't be good for his elbow. Even warming up takes something out of a pitcher.

Jon Rauch (A Brother in H Solidarity with Guzman) made his season debut and was dominant, allowing only a flyball triple to Jose Offerman's corpse. He works quickly, throws strikes, and is massively tall. But, you probably already knew that.

He had a decent moving fastball. And what was either a cutter or a small, sharp slider. His changeup moves down and away from righties. Throw him in the rotation for Ohka for a start or two and see how the tall bastard does!

WTF Frank Senior Moment
This was actually a pretty strong game by Frank. Again, he magically stumbled into an optimal batting order. And he managed strongly and aggressively.

In the 8th inning, with the tying run on first and lefty Brian Schneider facing lefty Billy Wagner, he brought in Gary Bennett to PH. That's a decent move, especially because 99% of Major League managers won't PH for their catcher for fear of death. (I mean, have you ever actually seen an emergency catcher have to go in? Other than the Lenn Sakata/Tippy Martinez game)

He even was aggressive with his double switch earlier in the game, to bring in Rauch and Jamey Carroll to bump Guzman to the bench.

I think he made a little bit of a mistake in the 8th inning though. The pitcher was on deck when the last out was made. He didn't want to leave Rauch out there, which is ok, I guess, and he brought in Chad Cordero. But, as constructed, you were only going to get one inning out of him. What if it had gone extra innings?

Frank should have pinch hit Tony Blanco or JJ Davis for Brian Schneider. If they made outs, then he could double switch to bring Gary Bennett into the game, to bat leadoff in the 9th inning. Cordero would then be batting in the 7 spot in the lineup, and he wouldn't come up for at least two innings.

It didn't matter in the scheme of things, but it might have come back to hurt us later.

We Take The Good: Rauch, Frank's Aggressiveness, Wilkerson
We Take The Bad: Guzman, NJ's 2 Ks and GDP, Day's 5 BBs
We Take Them Both And There We Have The Facts Of Life.

Can Tootie play shortstop? Bash away in comments. Vent your long-simmering frustration!

Game Chatter! Phillies At Nationals

Wanna chatter? Click here!

A Temporary work-around!

The game's even on ESPN!

Pitching Carousel To Hell

The pitching maneuvers have begun.

The abused Joe Horgan takes his 21.00 ERA to New Orleans so he can try to learn how to get right-handed batters out. In his place comes Jo(h)n Rauch.

Despite the bloated stats, Horgan got the job he was supposed to do done: get lefties out. It's just that Frank, for whatever reason, decided he should be a middle reliever and able to get righties out too. He might be able to get Crappy righties out, but against Florida, Frank let him face Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera, Paul LoDuca -- not quite murderers row, but a core of a team strong enough to win the pennant. Righties ripped him a new cavity -- .667 .667 .958

But, he held his own against lefties: .231 .375 .308. The OBP allowed is high, but that's mostly from pitching around Jim Thome. They didn't hit for average and they didn't hit for power. That's about all you can ask from a left-handed specialist.

Hopefully Horgan'll get a chance later in the year. He's been effective before, and should be again -- if he can get out of Frank's doghouse.

Rauch comes up to fill a spot on the staff he probably should have had coming out of spring training. Apparently, they're bumping Tomo Ohka from his next start, but, with the offday this week, they can probably skip that slot altogether. I'd prefer that Rauch get a chance to start. I don't think he can quite do what John Patterson's doing, but he can certainly best Esteban Loaiza. (And besides, I don't think Patterson can keep doing what Patterson's been doing!)

Frank still thinks that Ohka's hurt and Ohka's being coy about it, so who knows. He'll be seeing mopup duty if needed, hopefully.

Where do we stand? My early season grades

Livan C+ Chad Cordero B-
Esteban B Luis Ayala A+
Patterson A+ TJ Tucker A+
Day C+ Joey Eischen B
Ohka (?) F Majewski/Carrasco incomplete!

Obviously the bullpen's been carrying this team. The starters are simply going to have to do better to reduce the pen's workload. Because, if they keep having to pitch 4.2 innings a game, they're not going to make it to the All-Star break without more injuries.

Pickin' And Grinnin'

That's more like it! Majority Whip Brad Wilkerson led the team, knocking out four hits and adding in a walk. And for good measure, he scored three runs, although it should've been four. He was incorrectly called out in the first inning on a verrrry close play at the plate. (The ump missed the call, but it was a really tough call to make, because Wilkerson slid under the glove and touched the plate a fraction of a second before the glove hit him.)

Time and time again, The Kentucky Masher set the tone, starting with his lead-off double in the first inning, which started an uncharacteristic early three-run rally, and continuing with his fourth-inning bomb off inept starter Victor Zambrano. (I think that's spanish for Tomo Ohka?)

Wilkerson wasn't the only one getting into the fun though. Where he led, they followed, as the Nationals ripped Mets pitching for 17 hits (5 of them for extra bases), 3 walks, and a season-tying high of 11 runs scored.

As bad as they were Saturday, they were as good on Sunday.

On the mound, !Navil¡ Hernandez got the start, and coughed up the lead way too quickly. Jose Reyes reached on a bunt to Hernandez that went as an error to Nick Johnson. Actually, Navil should have been charged with the error -- he ran into foul territory, and threw back towards fair, behind the runner. There's no way NJ could've seen the throw, which clanked off his glove. Kaz Matsui singled sharply to center and then Carlos Beltran inexplicably showed bunt. On his second attempt, he got the bunt down the third baseline, where a hard charging Vinny Castilla came in to barehand the play. All he got for his efforts was a hand full of grass. The bases were loaded and Mike Piazza unloaded them quickly for a tie game. Two walks, a popout and a GDP later, and Navil was out of the inning, and out of the game, sent to an early shower.

¡Livan Hernandez! came in to pitch the bottom of the second and pitched 6 excellent innings, allowing just 6 hits and zero walks. It wasn't a thing of beauty, but it was more than enough the way the hitters abused the Mets' staff.

WTF Frank Senior Moment
I missed most of the game, only catching it up to Wilkerson's homer in the 4th, but I did listen to parts of it on the radio.

The only decision I'll quibble with is the necessity of bringing Joey Eischen in, even for one batter. Eischen is literally (And I literally mean the literal definition of literal) on pace for 102 games pitched. That can't be good for the elbow, no matter how grizzled one is. Up 11-3, I think it's safe to save your lefty setup man for another game.

But, looking at the boxscore, I'm not entirely sure that Frank was even at the game. Did anyone actually see him? Was he napping?

Not only did the guy double-switch in a game, mid-inning even!, he somehow stumbled across an optimal line-up! Wilkerson, Johnson, Vidro, Guillen, Sledge, Castilla, Flotsam, Jetsam. Coincidentally (but don't tell Frank that!) the team responded by beating the hell out of the opposing pitchers.

We'll find out tonight whether he's learned any lessons. Bring on the Phail-ease!

Regular Comments Are Back

Regular comments are back. I prefer them, and you guys apparently prefer them too.

I think I might set up a separate blog just for the game chatters, and use the haloscan there to work around the comment flood protection problem. After 130 or so, all comments shut down for a day. And that's no fun!

Any suggestions? Things you'd like? Things you hate? (Other than my typos and frequent grammar problems?)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Game Day!

Who's it going to be? Livan or Navil? We'll find out as our beloved Nats face the disgustingly-slow Victor Zambrano and his magic bag of wild pitches.

Estimated game length? 4:21.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Shame On You, Frank

WHY DO YOU HATE JOE HORGAN? What did the man ever do to you? Why do you continually leave the poor bastard out there to rot? You do realize that you CAN relieve mid-inning, right?

This was the second game that he's left poor Joe out there on the mound til his arm falls off.

Horgan was awful this afternoon, but you owe it to him not to embarass him like that, Frank. That's the second time you've done that to him. There's ZERO excuse to leave a left-handed specialist out there to throw forty-four (44!!!) pitches -- no matter how much you hate him, or you want him dead. That's dangerous to his career -- both physically and emotionally. Shame on you, Frank.

We've seen enough to know, Frank, that Horgan cannot CANNOT get right-handed hitters out. He's purely a lefty specialist and not the long-reliever you hoped for. And besides, wasn't the whole point of having a second lefty in the bullpen, purely for matchup reasons? Did you already forget the reasoning for your spring roster decisions?

Horgan is simply getting eaten alive. Right handed batters are hitting .688 .684 .938 off of him. It really would be the best thing for Joe, at this point, to go down to New Orleans to figure out what's going on. And to be in a place where a manger doesn't abuse the hell out of him.

Unfortunately for him, he's probably permanently in Frank's doghouse. (But, maybe that's a good thing!)

The other problem I have with Frank's mistreatment is that essentially ran up the white flag. Frank quit on the team. And that's inexcusable. Down 4-0, and with this impotent offense, it was probably over, but by leaving Horgan out there to get battered, Frank turned a potentially close game into a laugher.

You're not in a position to send a message, Frank. And you owe it to the other 24 players on the team, as well as the thousands of people learning to live and die with this team, not to pull that kind of crap.

Hall-of-Famer or not, that's Bush League.

Rock Bottom

I'm sure there'll be plenty more losses to come, but this has to be pretty freakin' close to as bad as it gets. I didn't see a whole lot of the game, but what I did see (and hear on the radio as I tooled around DC) was some of the ugliest baseball this side of the '93 Mets.

There were many candidates for Lame Duck today. Each and every person who stepped on the sod in uniform soiled the good name of this still-young team.

Carlos Baerga's corpse was especially execrable. He Ole'd a groundball right between his wickets (I'm amazed it found room, actually!). And in the fifth-inning explosion, he made what has to be the single dumbest baseball play I've ever seen. There was a runner on third and nobody out (maybe one out?), and Mike Piazza drilled a grounder to him. Baerga went for the tagout of the runner off third, instead of firing the ball to first for the out. Hey assclown! You already held the runner, by checking him, and you had an easy play at first. Take the farkin' out! He pocketed the ball, and no out was recorded.

It's the same kind of play that I make when I'm on my PlayStation and I hit the wrong button. At least there's a reset button in the game.

Tony Blanco proved, beyond any resonable and many not-so-reasonable doubts that he will never be a major league leftielder. He makes JJ Davis look like Tris Speaker. He did go 2-4, but who the hell cares when you're getting pasted and giving up hits to leftield because you have no flippin' clue what you're doing out there?

Jose Vidro didn't have a problem with range today, but he did have problems catching wind-blow popups.

Brad Wilkerson showed that, although we love the Kentucky Masher, he's not going to be confused with Andruw Jones in the field.

Basically, everything bad that you could envision happening on a baseball diamond did. (Wait, lemme check.... Nope! No Balks!)

But, the real Lame Duck was the man who had the shovel and pickaxe out, digging us the early grave, Tomo "Ball Four" Ohka. Frank has an unsually long leash, but he had zero patience for Ohka's Kamikaze pitches. 3+ innings of four-run ball was more than enough.

It was the same Ohka we've seen all year: zero control and constantly behind the hitters. It was his walk of the pitcher (on four pitchers, no less) that ignited one of the Mets' rallies. How many times can one team walk the opposing pitcher? And how many times has it come back to nip our sweet li'l cheeks?

Frank suspects he's hiding an injury. "I really don't care what he says," Robinson said. "There has to be something wrong with him. Has to be. I've seen this kid for three years. Even when he wasn't pitching well, he didn't come anyplace close to the way he's throwing the ball right now."

I suspect we're close to the end of Ohka in the starting rotation. Tony Armas will be off the DL soon (next weekend perhaps?) and with the off-day on Thursday, we should be able to pass Ohka's spot in the rotation. If he's injured, the DL is the best thing for him. Jon Rauch is more than ready to fill in as a starter, if Armas isn't quite ready to go.

WTF Frank Senior Moment

There are fewer things worse than a tinkering manager. Especially one who feels he needs to dramatically shake things up. The team hasn't been scoring runs, so he dramatically overhauls the lineup. I can see playing one of Tony Blanco or Carlos Baerga, but both? And with Cristian Guzman still in the lineup? That's a recipe for an afternoon of dung.

It doesn't make any sense either, given his public pronouncement last week that he wanted to get Terrmel Sledge some more time. Unless I missed the announcement of a hand transplant over the weekend, Seo throws right-handed. So you bench a terrific defensive left-fielder who's smacked the hell out of the ball most of the year, for a AA-Ball non-defender with a right-handed swing longer than that 6th inning lasted?

That's a panic move. A move that he can sit back and claim that he was trying to 'stir things up', but really only serves to weaken the team. Bad move, Frank.

And what does Jamey Carroll have to do to get some PT? Yeah, I'd prefer him to Guzman at this point, but if Vinny Castilla's getting the day off, why not play Jamey? All he's done is hit the ball anytime he's in the lineup.

Whereas Carlos Baerga's corpse was last seen grounding out to the pitcher.

Tinkering is one thing. Weaking your team is something completely different.

Game Day! Nats At Mets

Tomo Ohka against someone.

I'll probably be in and out. Comment away!

Morning Round Up

--John Patterson is staying in the rotation. Shocking.

--St. Barry's gamer gets to the bottom of why this team stinks lately.

"Say it any way you want to say it," Robinson said. "It comes down to, in baseball terminology, we're not having good at-bats, for one reason or another. We're swinging at pitchers' pitches. We're not swinging at our pitch. We don't work the count. A pitcher gets in a rhythm, we just do nothing to disrupt that rhythm." ...

"We basically went out there and swung at everything they threw at us," second baseman Jose Vidro said. "We didn't make an approach."

It's a complete lack of hitting discipline. Instead of controlling the strikezone, they flail at anything that's a strike -- Especially in pressure situations with men on base. (Like Guzman's AB in the 8th inning last night)

That works if you're Vlad Guerrero. But there's not one of those in the lot.

--I just love this note from the Times!
The Nationals' 11 days either tied for on in sole possession of first place is already more time than the expansion Senators spent atop the American League in their 10 seasons. That franchise was in first place for only a total of nine days (six in 1962, two in 1969 and one in 1971).

--Today's game is at 1:10.

Tomo Ohka tries to rebound from a string of scheise starts, where he's walked everyone that came near the plate, including the batboy.

Kaz Ishii was scheduled to start, but he's on the DL. They'll be starting Jae Wong Seo, although the Post has Manny Aybar listed. Who knows? Maybe Ron Darling'll get the surprise start. Hell, the rate they're going Mel Proctor could probably throw a 3-hitter against them.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Man Must Be Stopped

The goat of the game was clearly Sleepy Robinson. I don't know how he's able to manage with his head so firmly lodged in a spot that's normally used for evacuation.

Plenty of Candidates for the WTF Frank Senior Moment

--9th inning, tying run at the plate. Your pinch hitting choices are the weak-hitting Carlos Baerga (111/ 111/ 111) or Terrmel Sledge who's bashing 294/ 409/ 588.

Yep. He picked Baerga. Even Ryan Church was a better choice (152/ 222/ 242)

--Cristian Guzman batted second, again. He hit a homer, but came up in the crucial 8th inning with the tying run at second. What'd our star number 2 batter do? He hit a ball so weakly it didn't even have the energy to make it up over the lip of the grass at the edge of the dirt cutout two feet from home plate. Meanwhile, NJ, the team's REAL number two, smashed a lead-off double in the ninth.

--Bottom of the 4th. Esteban Loaiza was running on less than fumes. His mechanics were noticeably out of whack. If you watched, you could see that his right shoulder was just dragging through the zone, way behind where it should've been. He wasn't driving on each of the pitches so much as shot-putting them to the plate. After surviving a bases-loaded situation and having thrown 100 pitches, he was due to bat second in the top of the 5th.

If it's you or me, you pat him on his overpaid ass and tell him to take a hot shower.

But, we didn't learn to play in 1962 like Frank. He patted him on the ass and said "Go Get Em Kid!" He grounds out weakly and then comes out to pitch the bottom of the inning with what had to be the most predictable result in baseball history: another run scored on a home run that, had it not hit the back of the wall, would probably still be bouncing.

I'm sure I missed a few more. Just post 'em in the comments so we can all mock his incompetence!

Sadly, when I started the Lame Duck, I made it so that only players on the field get the award. Lest Frank run away with the Seasonal Award (Tonight probably would've been his fourth).

No one really stuck out for particular incompetence... Jose Vidro had a bad game, and his inability to even put the ball in play against Roberto Hernandez in the 8th inning was inexcusable. Cristian Guzman had the lone run for the team on his inexplicible shot to left-center field. But, he also had the wretched AB in the 8th.

But, my winner tonight, is the man who could do no wrong last week, Vinny Castilla. He was 0-4 and folded in the clutch. He had the chance to make some noise in the 9th inning, coming to the plate as the tying run. He flied out weakly to right. In the first inning, Tom Glavine was on the ropes. He had the bases loaded, and was pretty clearly struggling to find his control.

Instead of putting the boot on his foot, he let him wiggle away, when he grounded into a forceout. Glavine never looked back, and, other than the Guzman bomb, was never really tested again.

Throw in the error he made to prolong the 6th inning, and he had a pretty stinky game in all aspects. On that play, it was a hard hit ball, but one that didn't require much lateral range. It took a funny hop, but it's a play that a major league third baseman needs to make (and is not all that different than the 'hit' he allowed on Opening Day in Philly).


Yes, I know that Guzman hasn't won the award yet, but, if you look at his individual games, he hasn't been in tooooo many key situations in games we lost. He could've come through in today's, but he does deserve credit for the homer hit hit -- the only run the freakin' team put on the board. If Vinny had done anything today, we're probably still playing baseball.

I have little doubt that Guzman will have won his share of awards by the end of the year!

Game Thread, Take 2!

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Game On! Open Thread

Meet the Mets!
Greet the Mets!
Step right up and beat the Mets!
Bring your kiddies, bring your wife,
Guaranteed to have the time of your life!

Because the Nats are really socking the ball
Knocking homers over the wall.
DC, Flor'da ev'rybody's comin' down,
to beat the M-E-T-S Mets from New York town!

Esteban Loaiza and his six-and-two-thirds-innings of fury versus some guy named Tom Glavine? The Braves used to have a good pitcher named Tom Glavine. Are they related?

Read The Sign, Frank!

Frequent Commenter-Turned Nats Blogger, Rocket1124 saw a sign at last night's game that I must've missed! Someone needs to make a larger one for the next home game!

(And I'd recommend Tahoma font next time! )

And The Winner Is...

After much careful deliberation and considering the vote of everyone in the thread, I'm going to have to stick with my initial instinct... Yesterday's Lame Duck was Chad Cordero.

The vote in the comments thread was 4-4, but there were two bloggers who saw it the same way I did. They'll break the tie.

Guzman's was a tough play, and a makeable one. But it would have never been an issue of Cordero didn't load the bases in the first place. It's a tough call, but I'll stick with Cordero.

Yes, it's weird that our worst player doesn't have an award yet, but there hasn't been one game that we've lost that's been directly a result of his play. (Yesterday excepted!). He's played decently in some of the losses and crappily in some of the wins. I have no doubt that he'll have his share of awards before too long!

One thing I noticed and posted in Adub's comments, but was a really hidden play...

Once the bases were loaded, Bobby Cox pinch ran for the catcher, Johnny Estrada at first base, bringing in the speedy Pete Orr. At the time it seemed like a silly move. Estrada's run was pretty meaningless -- just an insurance run. But, it paid off.

Orr hustled down the line so quickly, Guzman didn't really have a chance for the forceout at second base. I had initially thought that Jose Vidro didn't get to the bag in time. He did. It's just that Orr was already there. (If you watch the replay, you can see Vinny Castilla pointing for Guzman to throw to second on instincts. He wouldn't have had Orr there, even with a good throw.)

Then you throw in the double switch he used to bring in Andruw Jones in the bottom of the 9th, and Bobby Cox removed Frank's pants, just as Jack McKeon did earlier this week.

A Bad Case Of Mono’

What happens when one government regulated monopoly that’s grown far too big for its multi-billion dollar britches meets an unregulated Supreme-Court-approved monopoly and its bulldog-headed shyster?

That’s right. Nats fans get kneecapped.

--Eric Fisher in the Times
--Thomas Heath in the Post
--42-time Emmy Award Winner Jim Williams in the Examiner (and probably in his pajamas)

Comcast is suing MLB and Havana Pete, echoing the cable wars that prevented trillions of New Yorkers from seeing the Yankees on the YES network, Al Yankzeera.

Comcast contends that their contract allows them the right to match any Orioles TV offer and that the MASN deal circumvents that right.

As a result, Comcast definitely won’t be carrying MASN in the short-term, nor probably for the long-term either. And, apparently, it’s fouled-up the MASN negotiations with Direct TV.

The key with this issue, as it was with the YES/CableVision negotiations in NY is to completely ignore what both sides have to say. Neither of them, no matter what they say, has your interests at heart. They want the maximum return for their particular companies, and if that involves hiring raving hordes of barbarians to come pillage your house for valuables, so be it.

Comcast is just trying to protect its investment in Comcast SportsNet. Whether that means they want to retain control over the Orioles, or they want a piece of MASN, it doesn’t matter. They just want to be in the ballgame and in the MASN deal, Angelos, in effect, picked up the ball and went home.

Comcast Executive Vice-Weenie in Chief David Cohen, in a prime example of why you can’t listen to these people, says he’s thinking of the fan’s first, (And not his bazillion dollar company, nor his expense account, I’m sure) "In addition, we are concerned about the impact on our customers of a $2 to $3 a month 'Angelos tax' that would be imposed as a result of MASN's creation

Gee, thanks for looking out for us. This is pandering of the most pathetic kind. And, not having read the BPG forum, I suspect it’ll work. Angelos is a scumbag, but labeling the rights fees an Angelos tax is shifting the blame from the real issues to a man who’s so despised, he’d probably receive fewer votes for DC Mayor than Joseph Goebbels.

Airing MASN was never in the best interest of Comcast. As the regional monopoly, they were under little pressure to air the games, even with the threat of Direct TV. I mean, how many people would actually switch providers for a team that doesn’t yet have a rabid fanbase? Factor in how many people, like me, who can’t even get DTV, and Comcast wouldn’t be sweating at night.

It would make sense for Comcast to be involved in the ownership or production of the games. They’ve got an established presence in most cable systems now and their game productions are excellent. (Compare it to the old Os TV or current MASN games that have 4 cameras and look like they’re about the same quality as the ones you used to film Aunt Betsy’s birthday party last week.)

Ultimately, I’m sure that that’s where it’s headed. But, it’ll be a long time, probably, before these two behemoths slow dance.

In the meantime, MLB.TV continues to not blackout Nats games. If you’re a shmuck like me, it’s worth the $14.95. And you can even go back and watch Guzman’s mudball over and over and over again.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

To Err Is Human, To E6 Is FanFreakinTastic

What a freakin' miserable day for a miserable freakin' ball game. It was cold, windy, constantly rainy. I think I now have pneumonia, or some sort of ailment. And it was all for naught.

I really don't know who to make the Lame Duck. It's really a tossup in my mind, so I'll throw it out to the crowd, even though I suspect I know where you'll go! (Just leave your choice in the comments)

To me, the choice is like a bizarro 1985 MVP race. That year, Rickey Henderson got on-base like some sort of omnipotent being. And Don Mattingly knocked him around like he was Wil Cordero's wife. Who gets the award? The man who does the setting-up or the man who does the delivering?

1985 Don Mattingly: Cristian Guzman

-- A soul-crushing, hands-on-your-head, gutteral-NOOOO-inducing throw.
-- A miserable craptacular offensive performance with another pointless sacrifice.

-- The field was as sloppy as I've ever seen it. You could literally see the lights reflecting in the puddles on the infield.
-- It was a bad throw, but Nick Johnson probably could have done a little more to knock it down, or come off the bag sooner. Ron Darling said that the mud was caked on the ball when he threw it, which would be a big factor.
-- I was at the game, and I thought that Vidro gave up on the play -- that he didn't make an A+ effort to get to second for the game-ending forceout to give Guzman an out. Watching the replay, I'm not sure if that was the case.

1985 Rickey Henderson: Chad Cordero

-- After trying to give up the game last night, he did his damnedest to do it this afternoon.
-- Walked the freakin' go-ahead run!
-- Allowed hits to the first and third batters on 0-2 pitches. 0 and freakin' 2! And neither hit was a blooper. The second hit was so hard, in fact, that Chipper didn't even think about scoring on it.
-- Is it really fair to give an arsonist credit for fighting a fire?

-- Sloppy balls in his hands.
-- If Guzman makes the play, he survives.

As the obnoxious TV personality says, "What Say You?"

WTF Frank Senior Moment
Frank Batting Guzman second no longer qualifies under this category. It's just accepted, much as gravity is.

4th inning nil-nil. Brad Wilkerson leads off with a double and Guzman bunts him to second. I turn to my friend and start whining.

I know I have some bunt fetishists amongst my readers, so let's walk through it. We're going to make some assumptions that we can hopefully all agree on.

1. Guzman hits mostly groundballs.
2. A ground ball hit to the right side would move Wilkerson to third.
3. When he bats left-handed, as he did against the right-handed Smoltz, he's more likely to hit a ball to the right side.
4. There's a chance that a ball hit to the right side could produce an error or go through the infield for a hit.

Given that, why have him bunt? He's probably going to slap it to the infielder anyway, and the net result would be the same.

If they had let him swing away Wilkerson might move to third, or if the Gods are in a particularly zany mood, might even come around to score on a grounder to the outfield.

Even worse, the bunt contributed nothing. The run scored, but it would have regardless of the bunt. Jose Vidro scorched a grounder to Marcus Giles, which held Brad. And Jose Guillen's base hit, would've scored Wilkerson from second anyway.

The bunt contributed zippo to the inning, other than an easier-than-usual Guzman out.

Other Nats Crap

--They've made some improvements to the game-watching experience. The music is much quieter. They now display the game performances of batters on the video screen. Pitch speed is now displayed on the god-awful K-Kounter. And the centerfield ribbon boards each display a different league's out of town scores, instead of mirroring each other. Well done!

--John Patterson looked solid. He had 5 Ks, but none after the third inning, relying on a bunch of groundouts. He seemed really uncomfortable with the footing on the mound, but he survived.

--Hector Carrasco looked solid in his season debut. (His first game since 2003) I was surprised that Frank threw him right out in the fire, but he definitely earned a second look at filling the job that Antonio Osuna was signed for.

--Bobby Cox made a double switch to bring in Andruw "Gold Club" Jones and Danny Olb ('Cause there's no K, Vidro excepted) in the place of Ryan Langerhans (who really needs some more As in his name to be authentic). Jones made a terrific sliding catch off a Carlos Baerga liner. Langerhans isn't bad, but I'm not sure if he would've had that one. If that drops, we've got the tying run on first, or maybe second. It didn't. And we didn't.

--Blogger is a tool of satan. And it's post-eating ways must be destroyed. This is about the third time I had to write this. Thankfully, I had some of it saved!

Game Day! Open Thread

As per popular demand!

I'll be at the game, but feel free to blather away.

Just let me know if you see me. Remember -- red hat, pasty face.

John Smoltz versus John Patterson.

Who's the better John? We'll find out today!

Church Schooled

Damn, the Post beat me to it.

Ryan Church has stunk on ice so far this season, hitting just .156/ .229/ .250. I would say that those are numbers that'd make Cristian Guzman blush, but he's doing even worse. (How the hell does this team score ANY runs!?)

Last night, he probably had his best AB of the season (8th inning?). He battled the pitcher (Grabowski?) for pitch after pitch, and worked the count full before taking a called third strike on what was clearly a pitch high and away. (Freakin' Cheatin' Umps!)

Church has frequently looked overmatched, but at the same time, he's had a decent approach on some ABs. He doesn't look completely impotent at the plate as does Guzman. Still, he's walked just three times and struck out in nearly 1/4 of his ABs.

Defensively he's been solid, but not jaw-gapingly good. It's really been beneficial having him in center as opposed to Wilkerson. I know the grass in the gaps appreciates it!

I don't think Church should be sent down, but it wouldn't kill me to see his playing time cut a little bit, letting him get his feet wet slightly while the team sees what Terrmel Sledge's toxic bat can do this season. Sledge is a Terrmel is a terrific defensive outfielder, just compare him to JJ Slugish and it'll be apparent pretty quickly.

Sledge has hit well this season in VERY limited playing time: .286/ .421 (!)/ .643 (!!). Obviously, he won't keep that steroid-addled pace up, but he has a patient approach to his ABs that will serve him well, even if he's not hitting the cork out of the ball.

Frank needs to ease Church back into the lineup slowly, to see what he's got. He has the solid minor league pedigree. It's just that some players take a while to get going. All players go through stretches where nothing goes right. It's just that when they happen at the start of a career or a season, we have a hard timing determining whether he's unlucky or whether he just can't hack it.

Based on the approach he's taken to most of his ABs, I'm leaning towards the prior, not the latter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Night And Day

After a sphincter-clenching first inning, Zach Day settled down and pitched 7 solid innings, allowing just three hits. (The sorry 4/1 BB/K ratio will be left unmentioned!)

After getting wrecked by Los Bravos last week, he rebounded nicely and surpringly. All hail Puberty Boy! He's the Majority Whip!

--Jose Vidro was the offense. Again.

--JJ Davis continues butchering balls to the outfield. The play in the 8th inning when he played an out into a single, but almost into a triple was especially beautiful in a Greg Luzinski sorta way.

--Cristian Guzman hit second. Again. And sucked. Again.

It reminds me of an old George Will essay, which he wrote about growing up as a Cubs fan. He remembered the announcers saying that Roy Smalley Sr, mired in an 0-14 slump, was due.

He learned quickly that that only applied to players like Stan Musial. The Man was certainly due. For Roy, that was just the status quo.

I'm starting to think we might have ol' Roy on the team.

--WTF Frank Senior Moment:
Bottom of the 8th, one out, Wilkerson on first. Cristian Guzman bunts. The first was foul. The second was foul. They took the bunt off and he grounded out to third (shocking result of the night!). But why in the freakin' name of Ozzie Guillen are you bunting in that situaion? Aargh.

It's possible that the shell-shocked Guzman called the first on his own. But, if Frank didn't like it, he could've called it off with a sign. That's assuming that Frank wasn't sleeping at that point. And you all know what happens when you assume.

--WTF Frank Senior Moment runner up.
It worked out, but Day started to come unglued in the 7th, walking the lead-off batter on four. He quickly fell behind 3-1 to the next batter. Apparently, until the 3-1 pitch, the only pitcher Frank had warming was the newly-discovered Hector Carrasco. Hector's been good, but is that really the time you want him to be making his season debut? Of course Carrasco's been around long enough to actually have played with Frank. I guess he know's what to expect.

How The Nats Stack Up

Remember, there are 16 teams in the league. (Stats prior to tonight's game)

Runs -- 64 (9th)
HR -- 15 (6th)
Triples -- 8 (1st!)
Total Bases -- 221 (2nd)
On-Base % -- .333 (9th)
SLG -- .464 (2nd)
Ks by batters -- 86 (9th)
BBs by batters -- 39 (14th)
Pinch-Hitter Batting Average -- .192 (11th)
GIDP -- 16 (1st)
Pitches Seen Per Plate Appearance -- 3.45 (15th)
BB/K ratio -- .45 (12th)

ERA 5.37 (13th)
BA Allowed -- .276 (11th)
K/9 -- 5.15 (15th)
WHIP -- 1.45 (12th)
BB -- 49 (6th)
Caught Stealing -- 63% (1st)
Pitches/Start -- 98.1 (4th)
Defensive Independent ERA -- 4.52 (11th) [In other words, they've been 'unlucky' in that their pitching numbers are worse than they should be given the stats they've put up]

Our Farm Friends

A fortnight into the season and it’s a good time to take a look at how some of our springtime friends are doing.

New Orleans

Endy Chavez 265 342 353 4 walks in 9 games
Tyrell Godwin 391 429 500 2SB/2CS
Brendan Harris 238 319 357 5BB/13K
Larry Broadway 194 242 258 1BB/9K
Jeff Hammonds 174 333 435

Jon Rauch 9.1 0 11 3.86
Sunny Kim 15.1 6 14 2.93
Hector Carrasco 8 2 10 0.00
Claudio Vargas 5 2 8 1.80
Tony Armas 3.1 1 3 5.40
Ed Yarnall 9.2 4 5 4.66

Harrisburg Senators

Offensively, it’s a wasteland.

Rich Rundles 19.1 8 6 2.79
Darrel Rasner 14.1 3 7 5.02
Danny Rueckel 5 1 5 0.00

Savannah Sand Nats

Ian Desmond 277 300 447 2BB/7K

Obviously there are some other notable performances, but these are the names most of us are familiar with because of their springtime performance, past major league experience, or advanced prospect status.

(Formatting hates me, so forgive the mess!)

Barry's Back!

He's chatting at two.

Feel free to start peppering him with questions.

-- Why does Guzman stink?
-- How many double plays can one right-handed hitting platoon outfielder hit into?
-- How many doubles can one right-handed hitting platoon outfielder create with bad defense?
-- How's Vinny's knee/foot/shin?
-- Was Brendan Harris behind his injury(ies)?
-- Does Frank know what a double switch is?

Be Creative!

Tinker? Never A Chance

If you're reading me, you're probably reading him anyway, but the pseudonymous Ball-Wonk (At least I hope it's a pseudonym and not the result of some cruel parentage!) has a look at the lineup and Big Frank's grumblings that he's going to have to tinker with the lineup.

He, like me, hopes that it's just a bad bit of gas from his poached eggs over toast (or maybe grits?).
But whatever you do, don't panic. We're not losing for lack of hitting, although more runs would be nice. We lost these last two games because we gave up too many runs. You give up nine runs, well, you don't win that game. You just don't. Once or twice a season maybe you can buck the odds and score the heck out of an opponent after you spot him nine, but mostly you don't. That's not how this game works. Basically, in modern baseball, the goal is to score five runs while giving up only four. If you give up nine or six runs and don't win, well, sure, more productive hitting would be nice, but your real problem is giving up too many runs.

And, I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one noticing that Frank doesn't like the sidetrip to homeplate when making a mid-inning pitching change:
Let's work on that - and especially on learning when to pull pitchers during innings and how to make a double-switch - before doing anything silly like batting Church leadoff.

Amen, Mister Wonk. (Mister Ball-Wonk?) Amen.

Where's Barry?

Apparently St. Barry of Svrluga has been too busy with the papal conclave to worry about such trifles as major league baseball.

He's missed each of the last two games -- a staff writer filled in yesterday, and a stringer A STRINGER!?!? filled in the day before. (Attn Post Editors who don't read this blog: I'll string for you anytime! And besides, I could certainly use an editor!)

Is it coincidental that Barry's absence resulted in two of the most demoralizing losses yet? Does his divine power ward off evil fish spirits? Hurry back, Barry! Your flock needs you! (Especially with John Smoltz looming on Thursday!)

(Thanks to FishbowlDC for the observant eyes!)

For My Next Trick

... I'll give out tonight's winning lotto numbers: 6, 4 and 3.

Hector Carrasco, on whom I dug up an article on yesterday, gets the callup to the big leagues as the injuries begin to mount.

TJ Tucker strained his groin (ripped? tore? Rip Torn?) when his foot got caught in the pitcher's mound. Ouch!

I guess Tony Armas has started a trend!

To clear a spot for Carrasco, Tucker was officially placed on the 15-day DL, and the eternally-injured Alex Escobar was placed on the 60-day DL to free up a spot on the 40-man roster. (A player on the 60-day does not count against the team's 40-man roster limits)

Carrasco has had an interesting career, bouncing around various teams, but usually useful in middle or long relief. He'll need to sponge up some innings and take a load off some of our increasingly overworked relievers before their arms fall off.

Frank hasn't had any problem throwing Gary Majewski out there immediately. With Puberty Boy on the mound today, he'll probably be needed by about the fourth! :)

Tucker's injury does raise another question though... Is the field up to standard? There have been several complaints about the mound -- remember Livan complaining about the mound Opening Night? And some of the Arizona players complained about the field, notably Koyie Hill, who blamed the Nats' double steal on Sunday, on his inability to get good footing.

The Times reports that they've brought in the pros -- the groundscrew from Vierra to help them out, especially with the mound. That's the most important, obviously. We can't afford to have our players hurt for stupid reasons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


You're never as good as you look when you're on a winning streak. And you're never as bad as you look when you're on a losing streak. And you're never as bad as you look when the Florida Freakin' Marlins beat the hell out of you again.

Livan Hernandez was supposed to start, but his evil twin, !Navil¡ made the appearance, just as he had on opening day in Philly. 5 innings, 8 hits, 2 walks and one bomb off the bat of Carlos Delgado.

Most egregious was the third-inning walk to the pitcher, Scuffy Moehler. If all things stay the same and Livan gets Scuffy, the inning ends with no run scoring. But, in that same alternate universe I would be king. Alas, it's not to be.

I hope this isn't a trend for Livan's starts and that it's just a bad stretch. Even in his last start, he walked the ballpark. His control has certainly been suspect and it'll need to improve for him to be successful, because he's certainly not going to overpower anyone.

I love ya Livan, but you were pretty lame tonight.

--Vinny Castilla fouled a ball of his foot and left the game. We'll see what develops.

--TJ Tucker strained his side and had to be relieved by the hero of yesterday's game (Assuming you're a Marlins fan) Joe Horgan. Horgan faced one batter and got him.

Frank did this earlier this week when Luis Ayala got the bejeesus knocked out of him. It's a good move to get the guy right back out there and get him some confidence back. Horgan probably feels a whole lot better about himself tonight than he did last night. (And I know the outfielders certainly appreciated the reprieve from windsprints to the gap!)

--The bullpen remains a strength, pitching another four kickass innings. Unfortunately, at this pace, the bullpen'll be burned out by Mid-May. Pretty soon something's going to have to happen. We're coming up on a stretch where we can't hide the fifth starter any more and we'll probably have to go to 12 pitchers.

--Had we won, the easy pick for player of the game would have been Cristian Guzman. I don't know if it has something to do with the new Pope signaling that the endtimes are near (I haven't really brushed up on my papal conspiracies like I should), but Guzman hit like a man knowing the end was near! He had three straight hits, with only one of them being his trademark limp-wristed, Wee-Willy-Keeler-lite theres-a-hitch-in-my-swing-even-though-I-have-no-power slaps at the ball. He even drove a ball into the gap, which would've meant another triple for this team, but it bounced over the wall for an automatic double.

The not-really-that speedy ne'er-do-well chipped in a stolen base (third, even!) and would tried for another when Brad Wilkerson ended another inning with a strikeout. (Hey, at least he only had 1 today!)

--I didn't catch any WTF Frank Senior Moments. Did I miss one?

For the second straight game, he engineered a pseudo double switch, moving his pinch-hitters around and bringing in a fresh pitcher to start the new inning. I'm still waiting for a mid-inning pitching-change version of the double switch. They're not that rare. We've gotta have one sooner or later!

--ESPN's boxscores give the gamescore at the bottom. (It's a junky, yet fun, stat that Bill James created to give a rough shorthand of the quality of a pitcher's outing. 50 is average and anything north of 80 is great.)

Livan finished with a 25. Oy!

--Atlanta invades tomorrow with its wife-beating manager in tow. We get Horacio Ramirez tomorrow and then John Smoltz on Thursday.

Obviously, tomorrow's the better chance for a win. Ramirez missed most of last year with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. He's pitched in two games this year, putting up a 4.50 ERA.

Unfortunately, it probably means the return of JJ Davis and our all-doubles defense.

If we don't beat him tomorrow, we face Smoltz and a possible 4-game losing streak before heading to the hellhole in NY. Not good.

We'll find out tomorrow!

Much-Needed Relief

The New Orleans Times-Picayune looks at Hector Carrasco, who's put up some solid numbers in the minors this year.
Sent to New Orleans, Carrasco has been sharp in Triple-A. In six appearances, he has allowed four hits in eight innings, going 1-0 with a 0.00 earned-run average and four saves. He has struck out 10, including two Monday night, and walked two.

Apparently he had a sudden transformation in his pitching abilities while in the minors.
His biggest thrill, he said, was making the Cincinnati Reds in 1994 out of Class A.

"I won three games in a row, saved six games in a row," he said. "That year, I came from nowhere."

"I remember him as a young guy who threw average," said Brent Strom, the Nationals' roving pitching coordinator. "Then all of a sudden, it was like God touched his arm. Lightning came out of it.

"From then on, this guy had a low-90 (mph) to upper-90 fastball. He's got a resilient arm and competes like a son of a gun."

Carrasco said he was pitching in Class A for the Houston organization when his transformation occurred, and he can't explain it. "I was playing catch," he said. "I was pitching the game. I threw 84. One day later, I threw 95."

And, more importantly,
He said he's enjoying New Orleans. "I love the food here, seafood, seafood gumbo," he said.

Carrasco's probably pretty low on the depth chart -- at least he was the last time we checked in with the magical dry erase board.

But, if he keeps up with what he's doing, who knows where he'll end up. He's been a useful reliever at times and could be an effective middle man, if given the chance.

WTF Frank? Senior Moments At The Ballpark

When Big Frank got back to the clubhouse last night, he had to reach around his ankles and pull his pants up. Jack McKeon simply managed them right off Frank’s 94-year old waist.

Frank, we love ya. You’re a Hall of Famer. You’ve managed since before I was born. But, damn, that was brutal last night. (Beware: Cranky Fan Rantings From This Point Forward)

WTF #1 -- Guzman batting second? Yes, he hits lefties better, but he still stinks. When going well, he really shouldn’t be batting second. When going through a James-Brown-style funk, he shouldn’t bat anywhere north of the eight spot. (Actually, I kinda wished he wasn’t batting anywhere north of Vierra, FL, but that’s another story.)

WTF #2 -- Bunting in the first inning? Wilkerson got on with one of the ugliest bunts I’ve ever seen. But, they don’t draw pictures in the boxscores. Guzman followed it up with a sacrifice. Now, let’s give the team the benefit of the doubt and say they actually knocked in that run, which they didn’t. Woohoo. You’re leading 1-0.

BUT who gives a flying crap when your pitching staff is going to get torched for nine runs??? No, you don’t know that your pitchers are going to do that, but c’mon, it’s Tomo F. Ohka on the mound, not 1999 Pedro!

It is stupid and pointless to bunt in the first inning when you have NO IDEA whether one single run is going to be important or not. In this case it wasn’t. And you wasted an out.

As the corollary to this and WTF #1 -- if the second batter is good enough to be batting high in your lineup, why the hell are you bunting with him. If he’s a weak enough hitter to need to bunt in that situation, why the hell is he hitting second? *Serenity now. Serenity now.*

WTF #3 -- 6 innings from Ohka? Frank doesn’t know when to say when. Kenny Rogers certainly knows when to fold ‘em. Frank has yet to learn. Sometimes 5 innings is good enough. At the end of five, Ohka had given up just four hits, but allowed five walks. He had thrown only 89 pitches, but was clearly laboring out there. He had managed to keep his thumb in the dike for 5 innings, but the cracks were getting larger.

In the bottom of the inning, Ohka was due to hit fourth. Two plays to Castillo and one to Lowell later, and the inning was over. Interestingly, Tucker WAS warming up in the bullpen and someone (Blanco?) had come out for Ohka in the on-deck circle. So, we know Frank was considering the situation.

Two Marlins batters later (and two doubles later) Ohka was gone from the game, charged with two more runs.

WTF #4 -- Leaving Horgan Out For Dead? Three of the first four batters Horgan would’ve faced in the key 7th inning were lefties (the other a switchie.) After that comes the string of righty hitters -- Cabrera, Encarnacion, Lowell and LoDuca.

Perfect time to bring in a righty, huh? Nope. Frank decided he’d leave Horgan out there to get the piss beaten out of him. How’d Joe do against those righties? Single, Double, Double, Double. Great. Not only did he leave him out for dead, he didn’t have ANYONE warming?

The whole reason Frank wanted a second lefty in the pen was for match-up reasons, and yet, he left him in against a string of righties? How many consecutive hits does a batter have to give up before you realize he might not have it? Please, let this be the last time that Horgan ever faces a righty batter.

I just don’t understand that. Not at all.

WTF #5 -- Can’t resist the trap, huh? Now 9-0, it was time for the Nats patented 7th Inning Happy Fun Time. Homer, Single, Single, Automatic Double (Pedant note: NOT a ground-rule double!) and the D-Train was derailed from its Hershiser aspirations.

Frank Pinch hits to bring in Sledge, The Six-Fingered Mound Sloth comes in. Sac Fly, HBP (Probably Bennett’s best contribution of the night) and McKeon sets the trap.

There’s a lefty warming up in the bullpen, which Frank should be able to see, seeing how it’s only about 350 feet in front of him and there’s a pitcher on the mound who hit one batter and gave up a hard hit ball to the other.

Like the bug that just can’t resist the allure of the Venus Fly Trap, Frank steps right in the trap. In comes Ryan Church to pinch hit for the pitcher. In comes the left handed pitcher. For all intents and purposes, the inning’s over.

I love Church (mostly because he’s not the former CFer who shall remain nameless), but the last thing I want to see is a rookie at the plate with the game in the balance facing a lefty specialist. You just knew he had no chance. Pop Foul and a K to Wilkerson on an uuuuuggggly swing, and the rally was done.

What would I have done? I’d have brought in Jamey Carroll. We still needed base runners, and Carroll’s done a good job of getting on in his career. Alfonseca has stretches where he loses it -- maybe this was going to be one of them? Bringing in Church let him off the hook. (And, besides, Carroll against a righty is a better match-up than Church against a lefty.)

Managing is not about working with computers. Nor is it working just with your gut. Frank’s won a lot of games in his career. And he’s lost a lot too. The problem seems that Frank’s still trying to manage like he did when he first wrote his name in the lineup card back in the ‘70s. The game's different now and his strategies need to have evolved.

He doesn’t have to go all Moneyball (or at least the lazy sportswriter’s stereotype of what Moneyball represents, which is actually the opposite of what it means), but he does need to put his team in the best position to win.

You can quibble with some of the decisions he’s made and some of my criticisms (that’s what comments are for!), but taken in whole, they’re troubling. We could survive a few of them, but not 5. Not against a team the quality of Florida.

It’s possible that even if he made the ‘right’ decision in each of these cases that we still would’ve lost. It’s possible that we still would’ve been blown out. We don’t know. But, we do know that these decisions didn’t put us into a stronger position to win. And this team needs every advantage it can muster.