Monday, April 03, 2006

Didn't We See This Movie Already?

Well this game seemed familiar, didn't it?

Poor clutch hitting? Check! The team left 9 on base, including 8 of them in scoring position.

No extra-base power? Check! Of the Nats 12 hits, only 1 went for extra bases, Ryan Zimmerman's fateful double.

Poor plate discipline? Check! They walked three times, but struck out seven.

Jose Guillen failing when they need him? Check! Witness his 7th inning GIDP when the Nats were rallying.

Baserunning errors? Check! Oh yes, were there errors.

The two key plays of the game were baserunning outs. One's excuseable. One's not.

Top of the eighth, with the Nats down 2, Alfonso Soriano led off with a single. Ryan Zimmerman ripped a double down the left-field line, and the Nats had runners at second and third with no one out, right? Nope. New third base coach Tony Beasley learned a valuable lesson today. With no one out you DO NOT SEND the runner. He did, and Soriano was tagged out on a close play at the plate. (Technically he wasn't tagged because Paul LoDuca dropped the ball, but he was really the only one in the park who knew -- not even Soriano realized -- until the 16th slow-motion replay.)

I don't understand that. I guess Beasley got eager. That's just a time where sending the runner makes no sense. With no outs, even this team is likely to score at least one run with a runner on third. If there are two outs, sure. Send the runner. If the pitcher's due up, maybe you send the runner. But down two and with your 7th and 8th hitters up, you can't let it happen. It's a lesson that I suspect Beasley will learn. Unfortunately, it may have cost the Nats a game.

The second error was in the 9th inning. Down one and with two outs, Jose Vidro ripped a liner into the gap in right-center. Jose chugged around first, and was nailed at second trying to stretch his single into a double, which ended the game. As frustrating to watch as that one was, that one's at least semi-excuseable, even if I think it was foolish.

Consider the circumstances: Billy Wagner was on the mound -- how many hits can a team get off him? Carlos Beltran had at least two throws earlier in the game and was HORRIBLE with both, missing the target wildly both times. On Vidro's liner, he had to run towards left field, away from second base, field the ball, spin, and fire to second. With all that going on, the chances of him uncorking an inaccurate throw were pretty high. Unfortunately, he didn't. It was a perfect play and the Nats lost.

Before you scoff, think about this: are the odds that Beltran would get off a great throw better than the odds that the Nats would get the two consecutive hits necessary to drive Vidro in from first to score the run? I dunno. But it's close.

  • The Lame Duck
    Congratulations go out to Nick Johnson for winning the season's first Lame Duck. Brian Schneider and his hideous 0-4 performance finished in a very close second. What'd the Walking Stick do to deserve this honor? Simple. He had two chances to win the game for the Nats, and failed in both.

    In the fifth inning, he struck out with runners at second and third while the Nats were down one. Put the ball in play, dammit! In the seventh inning, he stranded runners at first and second right after Jose Guillen's demoralizing double play.

    Nick Johnson had a crappy spring. He's going to need to do better, even if I was impressed with how he worked the count today.

  • Alfonso Soriano looked like a second baseman learning to play left in the field. There was only one clear misplay, a blooper off the bat of the unstoppable Xavier Nady. But when you get a chance to see him, watch how deep he plays. He's not comfortable going back on the ball, so he plays back, leaving more room for bloopers to bloop.

  • Brandon Watson? eh. He bunted, bunted again, and when he was done bunting, he bunted once more. All foul.

  • Frank Senior Moment of the Game
    Top 3, Livan led off with a single. Livan hasn't run full speed since he was in Cuba. He's fat. He's old. He has a bad knee. So what does Frank do? Sure, he tries to bunt him to second -- nevermind that it'd take a triple to score him from second, even. Poor Brandon Watson drew the assignment, bunting into a force play at second. Did Frank really think that Livan would be able to get to second? I dunno. I scratched my head at that one. It didn't really cost anything, but it's the first sign that Frank hasn't learned how to tailor his strategies to the personnel on the field.

  • Marlon Anderson showed the importance of the bench upgrades, singling and scoring in the seventh. Matt LeCroy came up in the 9th, and struck out. That happens against Billy Wagner, though.

  • The pitching looked good. Livan was dominant early, and he even dropped one of his 60MPH curveballs on Cliff Floyd who took it helplessly for a called third strike. Livan didn't appear to be pushing off at all, so perhaps his knee is still bothering him a bit.

    Felix Rodriguez looked decent. He's the way I remember him in that he's not going to beat you with control, but with his stuff. He's not walk-the-park wild, but you get the feeling when you watch him pitch that he's not quite sure where the next pitch is going.

    Gary Majewski pitched a scoreless inning, but if anyone who was watching the game can tell you that they weren't clenching their sphincter while he was on the mound, then they're lying (or a dirty Mets fan.)

  • Spilled Milk Watch:
    Brad Wilkerson, 0-4; 1K
    Jamey Carroll, 0-1
    Vinny Castilla, 0-3
    Juan Rivera, 0-1

  • I love, love, love Opening Day! I was hopped up on adrenaline all day, and watched a number of decent games. But we're about to see what I most hate about Opening Day -- the interminable 48 hour delay between games. Sigh.

  • WaPo's recap

  • Dave Sheinin shows why he's the Post's best sportswriter with an amazing dissection of the fateful Beasley/Soriano/LoDuce play at the plate. You'll have to read it for an explanation of why Royce Clayton deserves some of the blame -- an angle that didn't even occur to me. Seriously, read it. It's great. (I'd LOVE if Sheinin tracked the team more like this, doing sidebars on this sort of play instead of floating around doing boring National baseball stories that other outlets cover ad nauseam)

    • Royce Clayton on his screw-up: "I don't think it was a big factor". Really showing his committment to somthing bigger than himself there, huh?

      By Blogger DM, at 4/03/2006 11:50 PM  

    • Royce Clayton is a sack of month-old horse crap. I can't stand the guy. He's ALWAYS giving quotes like that, and seems to be REALLY self-unaware.

      I'm reminded of the story from earlier this year about how he decided not to approach the Nats about an 'improved contract' once it became clear he was going to start.

      Screw you, Clayton.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/03/2006 11:54 PM  

    • Re: Beasely sending Soriano home...he's being aggressive (like Bowden??) with a speedy runner. If Soriano makes it, they're both heroes.

      I have never understood this bass-ackwards baseball chestnut. If there are no outs, that's the perfect time to "waste one" since you have 2 more outs to try to score. Sending the runner with 2 outs is suicide; if he's put out you end the inning. How is that a Good Thing?

      Re: Soriano playing deep, Paul Blair the other day said that "it's easy" to play mid-field and go back on the ball, just don't feel that you must watch the ball in flight the whole time, so you won't be afraid that you'll run into the wall. Of course, they have that warning track to warn outfielders going back.

      I agree Soriano looks afraid to let balls fly over his head, so instead he lets them drop in front of him. Then he's afraid to pick them up sometimes.

      Just be thankful that we're not the Athletics tonight. At least they have only 21 hours to lick their wounds over their loss.

      By Blogger Bote Man, at 4/04/2006 1:51 AM  

    • Your recap just points out that the Nats need a manager who is alive, no one who is sleep walking and ready for Trembling Hills Nursing Home. This team is out of sync and the mess starts at the top.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/04/2006 6:43 AM  

    • I agree that Nick Johnson looked bad at the plate, but there are no words to describe how pathetic Brian Schneider looked. Looks like the WBC did him in, along with Ayala and Majewski.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/04/2006 6:50 AM  

    • I've got to disagree on sending Soriano in that situation. You're sending a very fast runner, and worst case, you have a man on second with one out. Can you really say with men on second and third and nobody out, the Nats couldn't have found a way to leave both men on base? It's not that common for these guys to get the ball rolling not in the infield, I don't mind taking a chance in that situation (and it should've paid off, if the ump got the call right).

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/04/2006 9:46 AM  

    • There's a HUGE difference between having a man on second with one out and having runners on second and third with no one out.

      Here, play with this

      It uses real life games and assesses a team's chances of winning.

      If a road team is in the 7th inning and down one, with runners at second and third with no one out, they have historically won 61% of their games (28/46)

      Same situation, but with a runner at second and one out, that drops to 30% (187/617).

      That's a HUGE play in terms of the effect on winning the game.

      Remember, not only did the Nats lose an out, they lost a base runner, and a runner on third. There are few things more valuable than a runner on third with less than 2 outs.

      They don't always get knocked in, but it's even harder to score a runner from second on an out.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/04/2006 9:54 AM  

    • Bote,

      Guys on third with less than 2 outs have two chances to score on a sac fly. Guys on third with 2 outs have no chances to score on a sac fly, so it makes sense to try to get him home before the next batter comes up.


      If you're right, and our offense is so bad that in most cases we won't score 1 run with 2nd & 3rd with no outs, then we shouldn't even be in the major leagues.

      By Blogger DM, at 4/04/2006 11:19 AM  

    • DM: Thank you! That is the explanation I was looking for, since I never played in the Majors, I never even played Little League, so I am always learning baseball strategy. It's a life-long pursuit.

      I TiVOed the game yesterday and after reading all the analysis (including Sheinin's) of that Soriano run-to-home play, I dissected it a bunch of times in slow motion. LoDuca might not have had full control of the ball, but it is inaccurate to say that he dropped it. There was plenny fault to go around elsewhere.

      It was interesting to hear Chris Berman and Jeff Brantley rave about the crack Mets defense on that play. Baseball does not fare well on television for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the cheerleading on the part of generalist nationwide sports guys. I MUCH prefer critical (but not criticizing) analysis. Thanx for the education, all.

      By Blogger Bote Man, at 4/04/2006 2:40 PM  

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