Monday, April 19, 2010

Nationals Reviewed: Two Weeks In

I used to do these weekly round-up posts. Everyone seemed to like them. At least they missed them when I stopped doing 'em. I'm not sure I have the patience to do a weekly one, and really, a weekly review is probably too close. You can't really see trends in a week. But every two weeks? You can't draw any conclusions, but it's a decent snapshot.

Case in point: If I wrote this piece last week, we'd be talking about how this is the worst team ever, and we'd be clamoring for Manny Acta to return. But now? Things don't feel so bad, do they? So without further ado...

Record: 6-6, 4th in the NL East, 7th in the NL.
Runs scored: 60 (5 per game, 7th in NL)
Runs allowed: 77 (6.42, last in NL)
Pythagoras Sez: 5-7

What's Good?

1) Pudge! No, I ain't gonna eat crow -- Aaron or otherwise. But I will enjoy what his newly re-animated corpse is doing, while he's doing it. The great thing about a .444/ .487/ .639 start is that when you hit .215/ .243/ .276 in July, nobody's gonna notice. For now, he's been a steady presence, and has driven a surprising number of line drives towards the gaps and down the lines. The $64,000 is question is whether a start this scorching means he's not quite the washed-up cadaver he was in the previous two. I know which way my head's leaning... but all our hearts are hoping it's wrong.

2) Josh Willingham! So long as you ignore his Wilkersonesque star turn, he's been the team's best threat. He's tied with Adam Dunn for the team lead in walks, raising his OBP to a juicy .500. Newfound patience at the plate, or the product of having Adam Kennedy batting behind him? He's been the only player on the team driving the ball. So does his hot start increase the chances of the team dealing him? He's likely to be one of the best bats on the market... just sayin'...

3) Ryan Zimmerman! Sure, he's missed some time, and... ok, one aside. Did you hear that major-league asshat Rob Dibble in yesterday's game? Complaining about how Zimmerman shouldn't be in the lineup if he's not healthy to barrel over a catcher like Pete Rose did? How Dibble (who probably sports wood at the thought of Chuckie Hustle) said Zimmerman needs to go on the DL then? STFU, moron. Do you want to take back that game-winning homer? Do you want to take back those gold-glove plays? Jesus Christ. When the choice is between Zimmerman at 80% and Al Gonzales at 100%, Zimm's the easy play. Hell, I'd take Zimm if those % were changed to 20%/387%. Moron.

4) Livan! What can you say? Livan looks like he's dropped a good 20-30 pounds. Course he's still 40-50 overweight, but for someone who had severe problems with his frosting-filled knee, losing a few cans of Crisco (fat in the can!) has to be a good thing, no? He's actually getting a little more oomph on his pitches over where he was a season or two. While he's not going to beat anyone with speed, every little bit helps. Maybe a healthy knee is letting him drive and follow through a little more. Might that not just help velocity, but technique? Does he have better MPH and better stuff now?

5) Riggleman! I'm still not a huge fan, and he still drives me feckin' batty sometimes, but the team does do some things well. They're running the bases better. And they're running smartly. When he's had the flexibility, he's been adaptable with the pen. Last week was a good example, where he used Capps for a 1+ inning save, then held him back the next game, starting with Burnet for a better matchup. That's smart managing that leverages the roster. That's not to say he's been perfect, but it's kinda nice to see a manager at least THINK about what he's doing with the pen instead of reflexively turning to Saul because it's the 7th inning.

What's Bad?

1) Adam Dunn. The problem with sluggers like Dunn is that when they're bad, holy hell, do they suck. Sure, he's walking, but he's paid to do more than walk. So we've got a .367 on-base singles hitter. He's a base-clogging Luis Castillo. Yay. He'll come around, right? I will say this -- despite a few ugly plays, he's been decent at 1B. He really is pretty good at stretching for throws, right? Zimmerman certainly looks more confident throwing to him. Did you see that diving play and off-balance throw he made against Milwaukee on Sunday? Would he have done that if Belliard were waddling near the bag?

2) Garrett Mock. We know he sucks. No sense rehashing it here. But this is one of the things I'm trying to figure out with this team. What was the decision process behind this? Three starts into spring, he was anointed #3. Three starts later, he's battling for a job. He wins a job despite no real success in spring. He sucks, then WHAM. He's gone. Why so many different evaluations of the same player? Do they really look at him that wildly? Do they evaluate things on the short term? What have you done for me lately? I dunno... there's some inconsistency there. And it's popped up with a few other things, such as the so-called Tavares platoon. Probably not getting worked up over, but it's a trend to look out for.

3) Lack of Control. The reason -- well, one of 'em -- the pitching stinks is because none of 'em can throw strikes. They're last in the league in BB/9 and 7 pitchers already have a BB/9 above 5. Walks can be offset, but this team is also last in the league in K/9. If you don't do one, you've gotta do the other. This'll improve some over the course of a season, but it's always going to be a bit of a problem with this team. Just means that for them to succeed, their pitchers have to keep the ball on the ground and in the park -- not just a little, but be among the best in the league.

4) Jason Marquis. I hate when people blame a player who sucks as if it's something in his head. Garrett Mock isn't sucking because he's a headcase. He's sucking because, well, he sucks. But today's comments from Steve "Hustler Man" McCatty really are pretty damning.
McCatty, though, leaned toward the mental aspect. For the first-time in his 10-year career, Marquis arrived with a new team carrying high expectations. The Nationals brought him here to lead their staff. The pressure combined with miserable early results has worn on him. Manager Jim Riggleman said Marquis looked "down in the dumps" when he came off the field yesterday.

"I think that he needs to have that one good game to get him on a roll," McCatty said. "He's trying so hard. He's pressing. I think that's a lot of what's going on.
The high expectations of the Nationals are causing him problems? Oy.

5) Ian Desmond's Defense. OK, he hasn't been absolutely terrible, but the errors look bad. And he's had a few 'huh' sorta plays that aren't quite errors. But, really, it's the errors that'd get him knocked out of the lineup, and he's been better the last few games there. The other things -- the hidden plays he missed -- rarely rise far enough to anyone's attention. It's hard to notice something that's not really being counted.

Game O' The Fortnight

There were a few good ones... so pick one:

April 10, 4-3 over the Mets. This is the one everyone'll remember for Willie Harris' bases-loaded, 9th-inning, 2-out, do-or-die, game-saving catch of a Rod Barajas line drive.

April 15, 7-5 over the Phillies, in the game that featured Ryan Zimmerman's pinch-hit homer, a 2-run blast that turned a 1-run deficit into a 1-run lead.

April 16, 5-3 over the Brewers. If you had Adam Kennedy and Wil Nieves leading an 8th inning rally in the pool, you win!

MVP Award!

Pudge Rodriguez's undead bat carried the team. And although some meatheads *coughdibblecough* want to give him credit for everything, he's been a positive force so far.

Cy Young Award!

Livan Hernandez wins it! Can't argue with a 0.00 ERA, right?

Austin Kearns Award

Adam Dunn deserves this one. That .270 slugging really is Kearnsesque

Joe Horgan Award

Thanks for playing, Mr. Mock. Enjoy Syracuse, and Dinosaur Barbecue. I think the Salt Museum is 2-for-1 on Tuesday. Maybe you could take Colon Battlestar?


  • Livo's shutout on Saturday didn't make the list for "Game of the Fortnight"? I feel like that game encompasses all the good stuff.

    By Anonymous Maggie, at 4/19/2010 9:45 PM  

  • I liked these posts and like this one.

    By Anonymous hb, at 4/19/2010 10:28 PM  

  • Joe Horgan in 2004 for Montreal: 40 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP.

    Joe Horgan in 2005 for Washington: 6 IP, 21.00 ERA, 3.83 WHIP.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4/19/2010 10:49 PM  

  • Maggie-i agree with you.

    Only 11k in attendance at tonights game. I wonder what our lowest turnout was from last season? Nicely done Stan.

    I'm also glad you brought this feature back Chris. Enjoyed reading it.

    By Anonymous MikeinDC, at 4/19/2010 10:50 PM  

  • Ok, answering my own question (i'm bored)...

    I just did a VERY quick scan of the attendance numbers on Baseball Alamanac of the last two seasons at Nats Park and the 2007 season at RFK and i can say with a fair degree of confidence that tonight's game had the lowest attendance since baseball came back to DC in 2005. Pitiful. Guess it was just SBF and a few of his closest escapees from the nuthouse at the stadium tonight.

    By Anonymous MikeinDC, at 4/19/2010 11:03 PM  

  • Very nice to see this feature again!

    By Anonymous cass, at 4/20/2010 12:19 AM  

  • Glad the Nationals Review is back. Always good for a few chuckles and at least one LOL moment. Good idea to stretch it out. There is far too much analysis, positive and negative, that is based on just the past few games. A little perspective is welcome. Besides, we need you to pace yourself and not get burned out (or terminally frustrated) again.

    Zuckerman tweeted that last night's attendance was the lowest ever at Nats Park. It was cavernous, that's for sure. But an awfully enjoyable game for the long sufferers who turned out. What's your guess of the STH total based on last night's attendance?

    Now about that pizza toss...

    By Blogger Section 222, at 4/20/2010 10:51 AM  

  • Chris -

    Please, please, please bring this back to a weekly format. Funny, insightful, and -- if we remain better than hideous -- really telling about what works and what doesn't with this team over time.

    Just my $.02.

    By Anonymous WebberDC, at 4/20/2010 1:40 PM  

  • Add another voice to those clamoring for you to keep this segment -- although I'm quite okay with it occurring every fortnight instead of every week.

    By Anonymous Natsochist, at 4/20/2010 2:49 PM  

  • Nice to see this feature back. My favorite read on the Nat Blogosphere.


    By Blogger Nattydread, at 4/20/2010 3:48 PM  

  • Well, done, Chris. Good points.

    I would add that since you are taking a longer, bigger view, you might comment on team play, not only individual play.

    It seems to me the team is playing better defense - am I mistaken? Also, the spotty starting pitching can blind us to the improved bullpen, which was the worst last year. I have a sense there are fewer baserunning mistakes too. So there's a general sense that the team isn't blowing so many games by overall sloppy play. That it's not everything that's bad, but only one thing: starting pitching.

    That's a huge improvement.

    By Anonymous nasher, at 4/21/2010 10:46 PM  

  • Chris, how about a little love for Matt Capps. He's not only saving games, but he's entertaining us with his high wire act a`la the Chadster. Does Riggleman smoke? He'll wind up looking like Weaver, darting furtively down the locker room tunnel to light up.

    By Anonymous Dana Gunnison, at 4/22/2010 3:42 AM  

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