Monday, April 23, 2007

Three Weeks Down, Many More To Go

Another week, another set of horrible losses. At least we can say we didn't lose all our series -- thanks to those stupid 2-game sets! There were plenty of little things to like this week -- the pen had some good games; the bats started batting -- and there were plenty to hate -- the pen had some bad games; the bats had problems batting.

We saw the demotion of Kory Casto and the implosion of Jerome Williams. But we also saw Matt Chico's first career win, which after his appearance on Saturday feels like it could be his last. Add it up, and it's another week of losing baseball. So nothing new.

Nats Record: 3-4; overall, 6-13 (half of our team's wins came this week), last in the NL
Expected Record: 5-14; Pythagoras doesn't troll at these depths
Runs Scored: 31 (4.4/game -- was 2.6 last week); overall, 62, which is next-to-last
Runs Allowed: 41 (5.9/game -- was 4.1 last week when Boz was drooling all over himself to describe how wonderful they were); overall, 107. Last. Duh. There's one team with 97, another with 87, and those are the only two within twenty runs.

What's Good?
1) Ryan Zimmerman! Rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. We won't hold his one homer or his four RBI on the garbage-time grand slam against him. (.333/ .371/ .485)

2) Saul Rivera and Jesus Colome! Off the scrap heap they came, pitching beautifully, especially in that extra-inning victory over the Phillies on Wednesday. Rivera got the callup when Burger King went down and has been sharp, even nailing down his first career save. Colome doesn't look pretty when he throws -- watch Schneider stretch and reach for every breaking pitch -- but the results have been there, including a sphincter-clenching three-inning scoreless appearance in that extra-innings game. Overall, they combined for 12.3 shutout IP with 10 Ks.

3) Manny Acta! He's done well with a tough pitching situation and some of the buttons he's pushed -- Restovich, Colome, etc -- have been beautiful. There's also something to be said for how he handled Ryan Church's benching. If they're going to suck, at least suck the right way. (yeah, yeah, that's what she said, blah blah)

What's Bad?
1) The Ace Relievers. Let's just hope that when the Boston Red Sox come calling for a closer (as if), that their scouts were in Kansas City and all evidence of Cordero's performance (2 blown saves) has been destroyed. Same goes for Jon Rauch, who just gives up too many damn homers.

2) Ronnie Belliard. I won't say "I told you so," but the warning signs were there when Manny Acta moved him up to #2. His hot performance was entirely driven by batting average -- zippo walks -- and there was no reason to believe that he'd continue to hit .400. The law of averages caught up, and Belliard hit a Castoian .161/ .235/ .258 this week.

3) Manny Acta. Despite the good things he's done, there've been some head scratchers this week. Relievers batting. He never double switches early in the game when the team needs a mopup man. He bunted into a bunch of outs with non-bunters. He had an inconsistent explanation for Church's benching vice Robert Fick's non-hustle. Etc.

Game O' The Week
You'd think a 5-0 lead would be good enough to win, right? Shawn Hill pitched well on Friday, holding the Marlins to two runs over six innings before leaving after winding and hurting himself on a wild trip around the bases. But Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero couldn't hold the lead (built, in part, on Ron Belliard's three-run bomb). Into extras the game went, and Jesus Colome and Ryan Wagner kept the Marlins bats mostly quiet. In the 14th, the Nats snuck a run across thanks to a Chris Snelling single that looked like it went through the 1B, and held on when Saul Rivera -- the only healthy reliever left -- pitched a scoreless bottom of the 14th. Nats Win! phew

Weekly Awards
MVP: Felipe Lopez had a few tough errors, but his bat is what carried him. He got on base a lot, including 5 times against the Marlins on Friday. And he stole two more bases. .387/ .444/ .419

Cy Young: Saul Rivera wins it for his rubber arm more than anything. 5 appearances, 6.1 innings and 6 Ks isn't a bad week for a middle reliever.

LVP: Belliard and Church (.192) were putrid, but Brian Schneider wins this one again. Despite hitting a homer and having 5 RBI, he still somehow only 'hit' .130/ .231/ .261. His OPS+ is now at 40 (which was way below Guzman '05 levels), and it's time to see more of Jesus Flores. No matter what mythical abilities you want to ascribe to a scrappy catcher for pitch-calling and handling the pitching staff, it's clear that even that's left his body. How much worse could these guys pitch. Wait. Don't answer that.

Joe Horgan Award: Jerome Williams was ghastly, but at least the man knows how to take a beating with flair. Dan Uggla's second tape-measure homer against the Nats is probably floating towards Portugal as we speak. Three homers and six walks in eleven innings won't get it done.

Weekly Whips:
4/16: Matt Chico got his first win, but he wouldn't have done it without Dmitri Young's two doubles and three hits.

4/17: Chris Snelling scored two runs and drove in a run despite batting 8th, plus the sight of him steaming around the bases on a triple is worth the price of admission -- Do his pants have tight elastic bands around the ankles?

4/18: They won it in extras, but they wouldn't have been there without Brian Schneider's where-did-that-come-from three-run homer.

4/19: Nobody did much of anything against Old Man Moyer until the 9th inning, but at least Dmitri Young had two hits. Sigh.

4/20: Belliard had three hits and three RBI, but I'll take Felipe Lopez, the leadoff guy with two hits and three walks; it's not his fault that Zimmerman and Young couldn't drive him in.

4/21: A sloppy game all around, but Ryan Zimmerman sprang to life with two hits.

4/22: Sure, Zimmerman had the slam, but Jesus Flores had two doubles and two RBI. (Can we forget about the rest of the game tho?)

Looking Ahead:
They're off today, before traveling to Philly's bandbox for 3, then returning to a road-team-packed RFK to face the dirty stinkin' Mets. Philly's rebounded slightly, and might be on their way to righting the ship. As for the Mets, if you're sitting in the upper deck in the OF this weekend, bring a glove.

Watch for potential changes on the pitching staff. Chico's been as terrible as a starter can be without having a 10 ERA. And Jerome Williams has been as terrible as a starter can be with a 10 ERA. For bullpen preservation's sake, we're getting to the point where we can't really carry both. One has options; the other doesn't. Will we see the last of one of them this week?


  • I remain puzzled by the decision of the Nats' "brain trust" to field a terrible team in its first full year of new ownership. Why aim for the bottom, and introduce potential fans to a low-quality product that is not major league in any true sense of the phrase?

    My sense is that there will be precious few seats sold over the next several years because folks have many opportunities to spend their time and money elsewhere--on pleasing recreational activities, and watching the Nats play does not qualify as a pleasing recreational activity. Unlike teams like the Cubs, there's no longstanding fan culture to sustain losers. Old-timers at Wrigley Field remember an afternoon game that was interrupted when fans in the bleachers saw smoke rising from the stockyards. No such memories exist to sustain the Nats through thick and thin.

    If "the plan" produces a pennant, most sentient beings in the metro area will not be paying attention. 2011? 2012? 2015? Who cares?

    The bottom line is that the bonds D.C. has issued to pay for the stadium are likely to go into default for lack of revenue. Will Congress then bail out D.C. because members of Congress love the Nats? Stay tuned.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 10:00 AM  

  • And the the aliens will take over the world!11!! ;)

    I think the cart is about 42 blocks ahead of the horse there.

    They'll be fine next year. The combo of a new stadium (which even increased attendance in PITT) and an increase in payroll (which comes because of increased revenue) will generate some buzz.

    I wouldn't worry about the short-term. They'll be fine.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/23/2007 10:09 AM  

  • chico HAS to be sent down ASAP. he can't find the plate and, when he can, he often doesn't seem to trust his stuff at this level. he needs consistent practice to gain consistency, confidence, etc.

    who should we bring up instead? who do you think i am, jimmy bowden? throw a dart at the board in columbus. my choice - mike bacsik. he's got more ML experience than most of our current starters. caeer 5-5 in 15 starts (22 appearances) w/ a (gulp) 5.88 era. his last ML action was 3 starts for texas in (gulp) 2004, where he was 1-1 w/ a 4.6 era. hey, he's just another lottery ticket, right!

    By Blogger DCPowerGator, at 4/23/2007 10:35 AM  

  • The attendance bump in Pittsburgh only lasted for a year. Ad the teams there continued to be bad, attendance dropped back to the pre-new stadium levels.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 12:00 PM  

  • The attendance bump in Pittsburgh only lasted for a year. Ad the teams there continued to be bad, attendance dropped back to the pre-new stadium levels.

    Which is why, like many have said, 2009 is the key year for "Teh Plan!!!1!"

    By Blogger Rocket1124, at 4/23/2007 12:39 PM  

  • I hope those dirty stinkin' Mets' fans enjoy themselves.

    I love the Nats, but I'm not going to pay "premium" ticket prices to watch a "discount" team crap all over themselves.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 2:33 PM  


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 3:41 PM  

  • Bring back Billy Traber!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 3:46 PM  

  • What I really would like now is this.......In a fit of honesty, what does Learner and Stan think of the Plan so far.....

    If they are happy then this franchise is in DEEP Trouble.

    If they are worried and surprised how bad this has gone and how wrong JimBo is about our talent, then I can live with it but we need our pound of flesh, time to fire Jim Bowden, they need a scape goat and his has been really wrong about the starting pitching Centerfield and Guzman and every Shortstop he has tried to cover his ass with.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 8:18 PM  

  • I'm sure they're thrilled with how the plan is going.

    The plan isn't about this year. We've known that practically from the day they took over.

    The plan is about 2008 and beyond, and there've been lots of good things in that direction.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/23/2007 9:48 PM  

  • Chris,

    Like what....getting the first pick in next years draft......I have not heard of any hot propects in the system and I sure have not seen in the Majors.....Stands are empty, players are frustrated and Acta seems ready to pop.....They are proud of this?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/23/2007 10:11 PM  

  • The first pick is part of it.

    Hot prospects, sure. Take a look at the low minors -- the guys in A ball. They don't have any upper-level guys worth a damn, but there's potential with the guys they picked up in last year's draft.

    They don't really give a rat's ass about the empty stands; they're making their money this year.

    The new park is sure to bring a bunch of fans back next year, and increases in payroll (because of extra revenues from the park) and winning through wise FA purchases and prospect development will help make them much more competive in 2009.

    If you've read me since the beginning, I don't agree with how they've done everything, but you can't gnash your teeth at three weeks of shitty play and say that the plan has failed.

    You don't look for short-term fixes to long-term problem unless you're Congress. ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/23/2007 10:16 PM  

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