Monday, May 01, 2006

Four Down, Twenty-Three To Go

A month in, and it seems like it's been a year already for the woeful Nats. They played seven games and only won once. Thankfully, the calendar flips, and the Nats finally get some games at home, and against teams that are closer to their level of suckiness (Marlins, Pirates, etc). It's unlikely that the Nats are going to be contenders this season, but if they're going to pretend to be, having a good month is essential. 15 of the 29 this month are at home, including a long 10-game homestand featuring three with the hated Blowrioles. But that's getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let's take a look, with misery, at the last week, and all the suffering that that entails.

Nats Record: 1-6
Overall: 8-17, fourth place
Runs Scored: 108 (25/30)
Runs Allowed: 133 (24/30)
Expected Record: 10-15 (Even pythagoras hates us)

What's Good?
1: Ummmm.... ummmm...
2: Well, there's....
3: Not much! It's hard to get excited about a 1-6 week, but Ryan Zimmerman, Royce Clayton, and Marlon Byrd all had excellent weeks. Joey Eischen, Livan Hernandez, and Ramon Ortiz might've turned their respective corners. Still, add it up, and it's enough to cry.

What's Bad?
1: The offense! Nick Johnson batted .231. Jose Guillen hit just .120. Ryan Church hit a pathetic .081. No one did anything.
2:Billy Traber: He couldn't hit the side of a barn, even if pitching from the inside, and earned a demotion to the Bayou, where he can work on his creole cooking.
3: The bullpen! Majewski and Bergmann were brutal this week. Eischen and Stanton pitched better, but do you really have faith in them?

Game O' The Week
Well, if I have to pick one, it's probably Saturday's 2-1 nail-biting loss. Livan matched up against Chris Carpenter, and dueled the Cy Young wannabe to a draw, no thanks to a dropped flyball by Jose Guillen. Jon Rauch served up the game-winning gopher ball to Albert Pujols (who else?), and Nick Johnson, the team's most patient player, swung at the first pitch he saw from Jason Isringhausen, after Izzy had walked the freakin' bases loaded. That's the kind of game we stole last year.

MVP Award
There's little competition this week, as Ryan Zimmerman trots home with the honors, just as he did on the three homers he smacked. He only batted .269, but those homers pushed his week's slugging average over .600. Even more shocking, only two Nats had a higher batting average (Vidro & Byrd).

The best sign, though, is that he struck out only four times. With the alarming rate he K'd over the previous three weeks, that's an excellent sign. He's making the adjustments.

That's probably been my favorite thing to watch about this team so far. Early in the season, he was fishing at any ol' breaking ball thrown on the outer half of the plate. He started going with those pitches, depositing them into shallow right (or sometimes off the wall!). This week, it seems like the pitchers have tried to bust him inside, and Zimmerman's been turning on those pitches with great results.

My friend pointed this out, but his mannerisms are very similar to Derek Jeter's. Between pitches, he goes through the exact same routine as Jeter does. And although his stance is different than Jeter's, he's showed the same excellent ability to pull his hands inside on a tight pitch, shooting the bathead through the zone.

On a team full of contemptible personalities, his wonderful defense, and learning process are one of the few things worth watching.

CY Young Award
Livan Hernandez didn't get a win, but he pitched 14 strong innings this week, and looks like he's closer to last year's first-half form than to that of the fat BP machine he resembled early this season. If his knee holds up, he could be the key to a much-improved May.

LVP Award
Congrats to Jose Guillen, the man with the balsa bat: .120/ .154/ .240. Mark Zuckerman takes at the whirlwind of issues surrounding him, noting how his obsession with RFK, as well as with his contract status are likely affecting him. Throw in his injuries, and he's a mess.

Joe Horgan Award
Billy Traber gets a run for his money from Felix Rodriguez (10.12 ERA in four games), but it's awfully hard to avert your eyes from the grisly show that is a 27.00 ERA. Congrats to Billy, and enjoy New Orleans!