Monday, August 21, 2006


Another game, another loss. If it's not the pitching, it's the hitting. Fresh off getting pasted the last two nights, Nats pitchers threw well, but the offense was offensive, getting just four measly hits, one of them a towering fly ball off the bat of Soriano that left the park for his 73rd homer of the season.

For a while, it looked like that one-run lead was going to hold. Billy Traber pitched beautifully. He just might be my favorite Nats pitcher to watch. He reminds me a lot of Jamey Moyer in that his fastball would bounce off a pain of glass. But his assortment of various slop helps to keep the hitters off balance. When he's throwing his breaking stuff for strikes, he's capable of pitching a great game, which he did tonight.

He throws an odd assortment of pitches, all based off that 84ish MPH fastball, which rides in slightly on right-handed batters. He's got a pretty good curveball -- perhaps his best pitch -- and will occasionally throw a changeup, which is best as a setup pitch. But he also throws a passable splitter, which is exceedingly rare from a left-handed pitcher. I really can't think of a lefty who throws one.

With that assortment and his command, he's not going to overpower a lineup, but he's capable of this kind of outing as long as he has his control. On the night, 2/3 of his pitches were strikes, and he walked just two batters, both in the same inning. Impressively, he struck out Marlins in his 6+ innings.

Ultimately, he was charged with three runs, but Alfonso Soriano didn't so him any favors. With that same one-run lead and a runner on second, the Marlins somehow hit a triple to left field, thanks to Soriano's decision to brew a pot of Earl Grey while on his way to field the ball. Dan Uggala followed with a bounding single up the middle that gave the Marlins their first lead of the night, and sent Traber to the dugout.

Jon Rauch relieved and immediately gave up a hard single towards the gap in left-center. Soriano made a quick play to get over towards the ball, but as he hurried to transfer the ball, in a bid to rack up another assist, he bobbled it, and the runner on first came alllllll the way around from first, scoring the third run. Soriano was charged with an error on the bobble, but, amazingly, the scorer credited the batter with an RBI single, driving in a runner from first. Go figure.

Traber deserved better.

Offensively, the team was a mess. They had great plate patience, walking 6 times, but couldn't get any farkin' hits. The middle of the order was a dead zone as Zimmerman, Johnson and Vidro combined for a craptastic 0-9.

I love the patience, but the hitting stinks lately. Still, we're getting baserunners. There are signs that they're going to break out -- signs that they're even capable. They just haven't done it. One of these days, the stars'll be aligned, and they're going to hang 15 runs on some crappy team (Buck Sez Milwaukee). Meanwhile, they'll scuffle along, losing games because they can't ever get farkin' hits.

I didn't realize it til I just looked it up, but the Nats are second in the league in walks. (They're also middle of the pack in Sac Bunts -- See, Frank can learn!)

  • I made note of Brian Schneider's recent hot-hitting in the weekly recap from earlier. So why did Frank Robinson pinch-hit for Schneider in the 9th inning down by two runs? Sure, Marlon Anderson got on base, but it's a curious decision.

  • Svrluga's gamer breaks down the ugly RISP numbers. If you want to check them out a bit, ESPN has some pretty good filters. Just click the filter box in the top right, and you can sort by a number of options.

  • Notes on Notes:
    Micah Bowie is set to start rehabbing; Alex Escobar is (what else?) injured, with a strange elbow problem that no one can figure out; Damian Jackson sucks.

  • More Notes on Notes:
    blah blah play defense blah blah; Escobar hospitalized blah blah;
    Nationals minor leaguer Christopher French, 22, a 21st-round selection in the June draft who plays for Class A Savannah, was arrested and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature following a fight outside a restaurant in Charleston, S.C., early Monday morning.

    "It's a criminal situation and a legal situation, and we're still checking into it," Andy Dunn, the team's director of player development, said in a phone interview. Asked if French would be eligible to play in the interim, Dunn said: "I'm not saying that's accurate. We've got to find out more."

    Dunn said French violated one of the club's minor league policies by breaking curfew, which is two hours after the end of the game. According to police reports, French struck a man three times, hospitalizing him, in an incident at 1:40 a.m.

    Man. Cut his ass. He sucks anyway.

    (Do you think that, when talking to the press, they just recycled the script from after Bowden's arrest?)

  • Our friends at BPG point us to this eBay auction of Ryan Zimmerman's first major league home run ball. Well, sort of. Read the black text below the pictures very carefully.

  • Our good friends at have another mailbag. You can learn that: Damian Jackson makes errors because he doesn't play; that some questioner thinks that Austin Kearns is garbage; the author doesn't have a clue with the catchers next year; Alex Escobar can be great -- perhaps a star like Terrmel Sledge; throwing first-pitch strikes is a strategy that only Randy St. Claire, who has apparently also fixed Ryan Wagner, employs; Ryan Zimmerman (who knew?) is a good candidate for Rookie of the Year; trading Vidro's bloated contract (which is about the size of one of his knees) is going to be hard; and, the team is unlikely to dump Guzman's contract.

    UPDATE: More details on the arrest of the minor leaguer:
    --The victim had head injuries and a perforated ear drum.
    --Would it shock you to find out that they were drinking?


    • Obviously, it took him 19 swings.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/22/2006 9:07 AM  

    • You are the same person who said Brad Wilkerson was better than Alfonso Soriano. I see you haven't talked about Wilkerson lately.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/22/2006 10:28 AM  

    • Show me where I said that Wilkerson was a better player? I was one of the few people to defend the trade in terms of the talent given up. You've been reading for a long time, obviously, perhaps you missed that. Need me to point the links out for you?

      Comparing Soriano to Wilkerson this year obviously looks foolish. I'd be interested to hear whether the team traded him, in part, because of the injuries; but the reporters haven't done any reporting on that.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/22/2006 10:31 AM  

    • Well, anonymous reader (Funny, you won't use a name; I wonder who you really are).

      Here are some links for you:
      My immediate reaction after the trade, written in the minutes following. (Weird how I said that losing Wilkerson wasn't a bad thing, huh?)

      Here's a post I wrote (part of a series defending Soriano -- perhaps you only google and read certain parts?) and saying how looking at his road stats last year is a mistake; he's a better player than that.

      Here's one analyzing the type of swing Soriano has and saying that he's not going to be hurt by playing at RFK -- funny, I didn't read anything like that in a mailbag.

      Here's the one that's probably most negative towards Soriano -- where I consider the contract status of the two players -- but even that concludes with this: "Soriano, if nothing else, is a vastly more exciting player to watch. And he's also more marketable because of his perceived value."

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/22/2006 10:46 AM  

    • I wonder how much of the decline in sacrifice bunts can be attributed to the team's seldom getting anyone on until there's two out?

      We've got some lousy OBPs leading off innings:

      Zimmerman .326 82 AB
      Clayton .257 69 AB
      Schneider .254 67 AB

      Soriano .350 and Johnson .427 are decent and very good in this situation respectively - but those aren't the guys after whom a sac bunt is usually in order. A good chunk of Soriano's OBs are actually home runs and Johnson has the heart of the order coming up.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/22/2006 10:53 AM  

    • That could be part of it. But I also think that he doesn't have "pro hitters" like Guzman and Carroll clogging up the lineup. Clayton was the only hitter in the lineup in that class, and he dropped down a few.

      It does seem like Frank has adjusted with the personnel; there's a lot more power on the team, and he's waiting for the big blast.

      It did seem like the harder time we had scoring, the more he'd force the issue -- choking off the offense even more in the process.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/22/2006 10:58 AM  

    • Terrmel Sledge is going to be a star!

      By Blogger Ryan, at 8/22/2006 10:58 AM  

    • Holy cow, that ebay auction is up to $127.50. Is an ordinary autographed ball really worth that much?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/22/2006 11:02 AM  

    • Rich -- I suspect that the bidder didn't read the fine print. It hasn't gone up since someone added the "ask the seller a question" to clarify that it's basically just a BP ball.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/22/2006 11:03 AM  

    • Dude, can't a guy take a vacation?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/22/2006 11:06 AM  

    • Yes, but how does he compare to Jamie Moyer? Speaking of deserving better, you think Traber could have held down the spot in the rotation as well as O'Connor did, if the team didn't give up on him for one lousy start? I tend to believe so, but O'Connor was really solid there for a while.

      By Blogger Harper, at 8/22/2006 12:10 PM  

    • I'm not sure that he'd be as effective as MOC was, especially for those first 7-10 starts or so, but he's certainly capable of putting up a sub-5 ERA.

      It'll be interesting to see how either fit into next year's picture. MOC's stuff isn't as good as Traber's (that's not really saying anything though!), but the kid was quite good for a long time -- even if his peripherals didn't agree!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/22/2006 12:19 PM  

    • On the bright side, we are only 1/2 game behind the Cubs and 6 games behind the Pirates for worst record in the NL. C'mon Nats, you can do it!

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/23/2006 12:56 PM  

    • Tendon-gate continues...

      Here comes the grievance:

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/23/2006 7:19 PM  

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