Thursday, April 26

Keep an Eye Out

Another day, another loss. There's nothing really that hopeful in the loss, although let's see what we can dig up that may be useful.

- John Patterson at least had movement on his pitches. Like so many of his starts so far, his velocity started out strong and then decreased as the game wore on. There's nothing inherently bad about that - most pitchers will lose a few MPH off their fastball between the 1st and the 6th innings - but the magnitude that Patterson was losing it was impressive. Yesterday was a little better; his velocity didn't start really dropping off until about 70-75 pitches in (somewhere around Howard's IBB), which is a good start. His stats weren't helped by the blowtorch job that Micah Bowie did, though. Now if Patterson can start hitting his spots, he might actually start living up to the promise he has.

- Ryan Zimmerman is at least beginning to hit the ball better now; so far it's right at fielders - and the GIDP last night was positively Vidro-esque - but at some point he's going to stop aiming them directly at the second baseman. Just a heads-up if he breaks out in the next week or so.

- The defense, it is horrid. I mean, it's not something we didn't expect to some degree (and I'm going to regret saying this when Logan and Guz come back, I think), but this is impressive. It's not all errors and wild throws, either. It's more positioning and bad breaks; I'll cut Belliard some slack mainly because he's basically a runaway train out there and the reason he's playing rover is because he'd make Vidro look like he has plus range if he was on the grass. I don't know if this will change at all if/when the injured players come back; my guess is it'll improve, if only because players will be at their natural position(s). I don't know if it'll help the boneheaded plays - and how much it will hurt the offense is something else to explore entirely, at a later date - but ...well, it can't hurt. If the stupidity is cut down, then the team will improve; it's that simple.

Like last week, don't expect many posts from now until Monday. The smart money is on "zero" for the number of posts between now and then, although if I get computer access that may change.

Wednesday, April 25

Channeling the Time Machine

The Nats had a good shot of winning tonight; Jason Bergmann put together another good outing, and although he still scares the piss out of me, this is three good outings in a row. By the numbers, that's three quality starts, meaning that Shawn Hill might actually have to move over on the "unsupported quality starts" bench.

Still, the most shocking part about Bergmann's start wasn't that it was good, it was that he left with a 3-2 lead after the 6th. That's really all that you can ask for from these starters, right? Throw fairly well, hope the team puts up a few runs and then let the bullpen close it out. We're not going to see many complete games from these guys, and we're not going to see many blowouts, eihter. The pitchers lack the stamina, and the bats lack the punch. As a result, we're basically left with what happened last night; a relatively close game going into the top of the 7th that was - at this point - still winnable.

Unfortunately, the Nats jumped into the time machine - way back to a couple of weeks ago - and put together some bad innings in the 7th and 8th. Before we go any further, this wasn't Acta's fault; he can't be blamed for the complete ineffectiveness of the relievers, and he certainly can't be blamed for throws that the cutoff man decided to not get. (Well, he can't be blamed for them now. If these problems persist .... maybe.)

So we're 3-2 in the top of the 7th. FLop singled to lead off, Belliard (who's starting to make me feel stupid about the whole "he'll be great out of the 2-hole" line of thought I had two weeks ago) grounded to second to advance Lopez. However, Ryan Zimmerman - who might just want to change his name to Snakebit at this point - lined directly to Chase Utley, who wasn't playing where second basemen usually play but more where he would play if he was trying to catch someone stealing. All the same, he caught the liner and doubled off FLop, end of inning.

Enter Saul Rivera in the bottom of the 7th, who promptly gave up the lead with a HR to Aaron Rowand. After a Ruiz single and an Abraham Nunez sacrifice (which: it's a tie game, Manuel must have had no confidence in Madson's ability to get down a sac), exit Saul Rivera and enter Micah Bowie. Bowie did get out of the 7th with no problems, but now it's tied.

Top of the 8th: nothing to see here. Church singles to left.

Bottom of the 8th, Bowie is back in. It's not a bad play here, really: Utley and Howard - the first two guys Bowie would face - are both lefties. Hope for the best with the matchup advantage (since Manuel's not PHing for them) and then let Rauch come in. It's a good idea in theory, and it'd probably work decently. However, Bowie fired a pitch almost behind Utley (hit him) and struck out Howard. Not unforgiveably terrible. Anyway, exit Bowie and enter Jon Rauch.

Ruach hasn't had much luck lately; he blew up just a few days ago, and now he came in with 1 on and 1 out in a game that - had he gotten out of the inning unscathed - might've lasted a while. Again. He didn't have it tonight either - at least not after the first part of the Burrell AB (where he got ahead 0-2). He walked Burrell on 4 straight, and then Wes Helms launched a crud missle into center. You know those hits, the kind of dumpers that drive you nuts when they happen to your team because the ball is absolutely in no-man's land, and that guy is coming around to score no matter what. It was a crud missile.

The Yahoo! play-by-play reads as follows for this: - W. Helms singled to center, C. Utley scored, P. Burrell to second. However, that doesn't quite describe what happened: Ryan Church then turned around and threw to third - again, not a bad idea: it stops Burrell from advancing. However, the throw missed the cutoff man and missed Zimmerman too. Burrell scored, and Helms was in position to trot home on a Carlos Ruiz single. 6-3, end of game (effectively).

So ...who's at fault, right? I can't really blame Rivera too much, Bowie basically did his job, and Rauch's just not going to have it some nights. Church's throw didn't help matters, but if it's on-target maybe we only have a 5-3 loss. It wasn't a game-breaker. Maybe you can blame the lack of hitting with RISP, but Zimm's double play was more a result of great D than a giant clunker of a hit.

More than anything else, it's these kind of losses that hurt. The Nats had a clear shot to win the game ... and yet, they couldn't. Three relievers in a row just got unlucky, and an errant throw killed what little shot the Nats had to win at that point. It's frustrating; we know after the last week that there is the talent to win games like this, but we can't all the time. On an intrinsic level, I know this ...and yet I hope I'm wrong.

Still, we'll see if today will turn out any different than yesterday. In all the ways that entails.

Tuesday, April 24

Masochism 101: Looking at the Nats' Staff

I don't know why I'm even posting this; as the title suggests, I must enjoy pain. Still, since I'm here and yesterday was an off day, I feel like something should be said, even if it's largely cursory. (Alternate explanation: I feel bad for not posting anything last weekend, or this upcoming weekend, as I'll be out of town yet again.) With that in mind, let's bust out the old grading scale, and our criteria are as follows:

1 - effectiveness (60%). This includes not allowing runners to score - and, failing that, at least stranding them.
2 - durability (20%). In short, what's the likelihood of these guys being stand-ins in those old Timex commercials where the guy smacks the hell out of a fly on his Timex watch?
3 - length of appearance (20%). For the love of god, keep the bullpen from killing itself.

John Patterson (D-)
He'd get an F, but at least he's struck out some guys. Well, relatively speaking. He avoids a F mainly based on his singularly-realized potential and the possibility he may actually be injured. (No, I'm not letting that go.) Average innings per start: 4.5. Good times.

Shawn Hill (B+)
Story of the season so far and the de facto ace - he will be the ace once Patterson gets injured. Not a whole lot of press outside of the Nats' circles, but that will change. Two quality starts in a row so far, and he's got better odds than most of continuing that streak.

Jason Bergmann (C-)
I really don't know what to make of him. He's durable for a Nats' pitcher, and he stands at least a passing chance of going 6 ... but I'd be lying if he doesn't spend the entire outing scaring the hell out of me. If you believe that the Bodes talk straightened him out, then good for you; I'd place it more on Randy St. Claire myself. Fittingly enough, this grade could bounce either way. Another bad outing puts him somewhere in the D range and another good outing puts it at C+ or so. Still scared, though.

Matt Chico (D)
He gets a small pass over Patterson because we expected him to suck. He's also thrown (.1) more innings. Still looks kind of lost out there, though.

Jerome Williams (F)
Human gas can! I'm surprised, really; I figured he'd be good for a 5.something ERA. It's still possible, but he may be doing that in Columbus.

So the question now is this: who else is better than these guys? I have no idea. Check Columbus, maybe; Billy Traber? Tim Redding? Joel Hanrahan? Maybe. Would they be any better than Williams, Chico, or (god forbid) Patterson? Probably not too much so, but I doubt they could be that much worse.

Monday, April 23

Better Late than Never: a Phillies Preview

Current season series record: 1-1 (last series: 1-1 ... duh.)

Probable starters for the series can be found here.

Well, so much for not being last in the NL. Bombing the last two in Florida will do that, and moreso when the team looks like it broke out the early-season style beatdowns. Still, the Phils aren't the Marlins (and does that sentence look weird to type); they haven't demonstrated a consistent ability to be ...well, good. Granted, it's not like the Marlins are a bunch of world-beaters, but the Phils have yet to get it going - hopefully that'll hold off for a few days!

There's not a ton here that's different from what it was last week; Charlie Manuel is still insane, Brett Myers is still not starting, Cole Hamels isn't injured (yet?). The Phils do throw a couple of lefties in the series: Moyer on Tuesday and Hamels on Thursday. In between is the slated start of Shawn Hill (more on that in a minute) and Jon Lieber.

Hill's start is only slated; there's no guarantee yet he'll be able to make it, thanks to a bad baserunning call this weekend. That in turn resulted in a strained forearm to his non-pitching arm (you can breathe again); this is a fantastic summary of what happened. If he goes, then the Nats have a great shot of winning ...well, one. I'm not sure they don't get swept here. It doesn't hurt that he goes against new rotation addition Jon Lieber.

So ...yeah. Sweep? Maybe. I don't quite think it's going to be that bad, but I think it could get ugly quickly. To say I was confident in the Nats' chances at this point would be pretty direct folly. I don't have much reason for that beyond reading about the ugly performances this weekend - the less said about them, the better - but I'm not sold they'll immediately rebound, either. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Saturday, April 21

Quick Hit

Can't post very long, but I'm wondering if Scott Olsen's healthy. It seems surprising that a guy who's as good a pitcher as he is isn't doing better this season. I'm doubly surprised that the not-very-good-against-lefites Nats offense was able to put 10 hits on him in 5 innings.

Kudos to the bullpen, although I'm also a little concerned about the extra-innings workload. There's not a ton of talent there - we know that - but again, there's not a ton of talent in the rotation either, and there's no guarantee that the rotation will pitch a ton of 6-7 inning starts. At least Shawn Hill had his second quality start this season; I'm ready to anoint him the staff ace, if nobody else is. Oddly, this time the breakdown in the bullpen was due to Rauch and Cordero; we've seen this before from Cordero, but Rauch ...well, that's a little odd. My guess / hope is it's just a momentary blip.

Still, we got our win; if we can get another one in the next two games, that's just gravy at this point.

Friday, April 20

White Rabbit Alert

So - yeah, once again I'm late, once again I missed yesterday's game. Fortunately, it would seem yesterday's starter - the one, the only John Patterson - missed it too. Presumably his eyelids were stopped up. Either way, he was good for 4 innings and 80 pitches of suspect ball with suspect movement, and, I'll write more about him later. For now, this sums up my feelings on it.

Anyway, we're facing the Marlins this weekend - not the first time either. We all remember the "performance" in the first series of the season, as much as we'd rather not. Blame the craptastic performances across the board - bad pitching, bad hitting, bad injuries, you name it. The series was bailed out from total uselessness thanks to Jorge Julio, who's since on gone on the DL with acute suckitis. Now the Nats travel to Florida - why should it be any better?

For starters, the team is better; the pitching can pass for mediocre on a good day, and the hitting is starting to show signs of life. True, Zimmerman has yet to really come to life, but that won't last. Lopez is starting to hit, and Snelling is fine as an 8 hitter in a full-time role.

Hill's the Nats' best starter and he's in the series. Chico and Williams are both works in progress at this point, but Chico has at least faced the Marlins this season. He actually didn't do badly; blame the defense. It'll be interesting to see if he does any better this time around, especially given his recent struggles.

Honestly, I'm not expecting much. There's a reason for the Nats to win each game (Hill on Friday, Chico's defense waking up, Mitre kind of sucks), but 1-2 may be the best we can hope for. I hope I'm wrong, and not in an "hey, we were outscored 123-0" kind of way.

Thursday, April 19

With a Little Bit of Hope

Well. This won't be the first opportunity this season the Nats have for a split (thanks, rainouts!), but it will be the first opportunity they have to win both games of a 2-game series. If you would've told me the first win would've come in a 13-inning affair that had the kind of bullpen line where D'Angelo Jimenez was the next pitcher in line, I'm not sure I would have believed you.

Once again, I can't really speak much to the game quality; I had to leave shortly after Eaton's double off the wall, which means - among other things - I totally missed the comeback and lead in the bottom of the 2nd and 3rd. I think this puts the Nats at 3-1 at games I can't follow. Good news: I can't follow today's game, either.

Bergmann was ...well, Bergmann. When he's on, he's - at best - effectively wild. Other people have said this already, but he's starting to remind me of Oliver Perez, just without the talent. This latest start gives him 14 Ks in the last 12.1 innings against only 5 walks, which is good. However, since Jason Voorhees made the first start, that not-bad ratio is actually 15 K / 11 BB, which blows. If we get more Bergmann starts, then there's a shot of respectability. Personally, I kind of doubt it; I expect Voorhees to show up shortly.

Saul Rivera picked up a hold while allowing 2 hits in 0.0 IP; good job, Saul! Way to allow those inherited runners to score!

Aside from that, there are a few things to take away from the game:
- Zimm can still play D; he turned a fantastic DP in the 12th that ...well, it probably didn't kill a rally, but since he was the pivot man, being able to whip it across the diamond to nail Howard for the second part of the DP was impressive. Now, factor in that he was playing basically out of position and that throw came from second with a guy bearing down on him - I'm impressed. He went 1-for-6, but that play alone will get a pass.
- It was All Hands Must Go night in the bullpen; everyone got some work. Bad performers of the night were the aforementioned Saul Rivera and Chad Cordero. Does he have the yips early? Hopefully this is just a phase. Still, the fact that the bullpen threw 5 scoreless innings (although Jesus Colome "scattered" a hit and 3 walks in 1.2 IP) shouldn't be overlooked.
- Brian Schneider hit a HR! He went 2-for-6 with 4 LOB, not great - but he's coming around, maybe. Maybe?
- Converted reliever Brett Myers allowed 2 hits in one inning with a K. No word if he uncorked a "wild pitch" and hit Charlie Manuel in the head.

First pitch at 1:05 today; staff "ace" John Patterson goes against Jamie Moyer. I couldn't advocate skipping work, but Gameday Audio is dirt cheap if you want to go that route.

Wednesday, April 18

I'm a Bad Fan, Vol. 1,482

So - if you totally revamp your blog to talking about the Nats, and then the first thing you do after doing that is miss the first game, ....well, you'd be me. It's not entirely my fault; I had to stay late at work. By the time work was done, so was the game, and the Braves walked away with a 6-4 win.

This was a hybrid of both the incredibly early-season struggles the Nats had (let's fall behind before we come up to bat!) and the slightly-more-recent ability to generate offense (the winning run was on base as late as the 7th inning). By the time the first was over, the Braves had sent 8 guys to the plate and Jerome Williams had pitched 36 pitches, and I'm left to believe that the McCann walk was of the unintentional intentional variety.

After that, it was more of the Nats' early-season woes; Smoltz sent down the side in order the first two innings before Chris Snelling worked out a walk in the third, coming around to score thanks to a sacrifice and FLop's infield single + throwing error.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the 7th (current score: 5-2). Once again, another rally was started by a Schneider non-hit followed by Snelling coming up big, and FLop contributing another RBI. It's good to see this from FLop, who's had a rough go of it early on. Still, two runs scored, and with Kearns at second, Zimm struck out and Meathook flied out. End of rally, end of game; Rafael Soriano and Bob Wickman closed the door. Another day, another game.

Aside from that, some other minor notes:
- FLop finally seems to be warming up; he's 6 for his last 14 with a stolen base (and a CS).
- Snelling continues his semi-intermittent hitting pace (5 for his last 10 if you ignore Monday's game). As bats in the number 8 hole go, you could do a lot worse.
- Scheider continued his odd pattern of getting critical non-hits, igniting a rally in the 7th. A double-switch going in the top of the 7th turned Schnieder into the de facto leadoff hitter, knocking Robert Fick out of the game.
- Speaking of Fick ... in the 6 spot? I'm a big fan of Acta, but I don't get it. Eh, he'll get a pass on this from me for now.

In other news, the Kory Casto experiement is on hold; he's been sent back down to Columbus. Not too surprising; as I mentioned before, Snelling has done a damn fine job hitting that far down in the order, and I'm personally wondering when he'd move up to hit 7th (or 6th!). Casto needs the everyday PT, which he wasn't going to get with the big club.

On the other hand, this is going to create some interesting debate as to who should start when Logan comes back from the DL with Snelling and Church hitting well.

Tuesday, April 17

It's a rebirth!

Well, that second option I was talking over has actually come through. As a result, two things are going to happen here:

1 - all (both) of my smaller focused posts are going to move to a different site. I'll certainly crosslink it when the first article goes up there, although I don't know when that'll be.
2 - this blog will actually be transformed. I figure that since I follow the Nats anyway, I might as well go ahead and change it over into a Nats-focused blog with respect to its baseball content. Now, that's not going to be the case for the other sports; college football will still be here (I need to talk to the other guy to make sure that he's up for it next year, too), and I'll probably throw some college basketball posts on here during the dead zone from January to March.

I'd make a joke about content here, but with 2 updates in the past 2 days, I think I'm due for a month's vacation at this rate, right?

Monday, April 16

Ignore the dust in here

My apologies in advance; I'm going to be revamping the blog layout over the next few days. There won't be any difference in content - make your own joke - but the appearance will be changing. I don't know what it'll change to yet - just something I like more. I'd expect a reduction in the font size, maybe a widening of the text box so there's not as much dead space. Link update, perhaps.

There may be a secondary, much bigger change coming in the next couple of weeks; I'll update you again if that's the case.