The World’s Gone Crazy

Yeah, I took the entire season off. Yeah. I did. Ball Wonk took off two seasons, and just came back so leave me alone.

Now, what would stir me to blog after a year of non-updating (in November, no less)?

Easy. Disrespect.

Somebody smudged our proverbial Pumas, Nats Fans. Ryan Zimmerman, FoTF, formerly Gold Glove winning, and repeating Silver Slugger, finished 16th in NL MVP voting. SIXTEENTH.

He didn’t have his best year. Oh, what? He had a career high in .AVG? And .OPS? As Adam Kilgore tweeted, “Ryan Zimmerman: 3rd in NL WAR(FG), 7th in OPS+, 4th in UZR, 16th in MVP. Everyone can take back what they said about Felix winning Cy.”

Wow. Players who finished in front of him: Aubrey Huff, Martin Prado, Buster Posey, Jayson Werth, Brian Wilson and Scott Rolen. Sigh. AUBREY HUFF? MARTIN PRADO? Good thing these awards don’t come with large financial bonuses, so it doesn’t matter that these writer’s pulled names out of their butts.

Also, Adam Dunn. Sign him. Josh Willingham, do not trade him. Ivan Rodriguez, trade him for a sack of potatoes. Bring up any number of prospects, and if we’re gonna endure a losing season again in the Spring, let’s at least do it with players who have potential. That is all.

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After Strasburg: What is this team?

After attending the second game of back to back contests at Nationals Park, and watching the wild dichotomy in attendance, intensity, and pitching talent between the two, it puts one in a reflective mood. With the utter dominance of a phenom like Strasburg, and the performance of the offensive spine of the team, a fan could be forgiven for thinking the sky was the limit (playoffs).
But watching last night’s game, despite the resulting victory, showed weaknesses that will keep this team from October baseball. Defensively, this team is awful. There a number of reasons for this:
1) Our outfielders cannot read the ball off of the bat. I’m not sure if this is an optical situation, or they just suck at it. But 90% of balls hit in the air, not directly at a fielder will be caught in a way that does not belie confidence, or missed spectacularly.
2) Despite Ian Desmond’s impressive UZR, that puts him among the top in the NL, he still manages to fluff his lines on a simple play. As the observation has surely been made, the hard plays he’s able to focus on, the routine, he’ll not move his feet enough, or short arm the throw. It may be telling that Desmond said earlier this week that he’s able to focus more late in the game when he’s hitting.
3) Non defensive Defensive backups. Wil Nieves. I’m not going to say much else.

Despite his player of the game performance last night, I’m still not sold on Roger Bernadina as an everyday option in right. Additionally, while Atilano has performed admirably in his MLB spell, he reminds of Shairon Martis, who I became briefly enamored of, until he turned into a walk machine.

Mike Rizzo has a decision to make. Sitting in the back of the pack in the NL East, but in definitive striking distance, this Nationals team has outpaced anyone’s reasonable expectations. Willingham is turning into a stud in LF, Dunn is hitting for average, Capps is the freaking MLB saves leader, Atilano has 6 wins, Pudge has been otherworldly, Clippard has the highest swing and miss rate in all of MLB, and all of this despite Jason Marquis not being healthy, John Lannan sucking, Scott Olsen being hurt again, and Wil Nieves having to play more than once a week.

The pieces are in AAA and AA to make a move for a salary dump on an out of the race team. The name being most touted, Roy Oswalt, would probably being mighty costly, and the Astros are sure to want good pitching in return. That may be the main reason I don’t see this deal getting done, unless by “good pitching” they mean Brad Meyers, Luis Atilano, and Colin Balester. Cliff Lee obviously isn’t happening, so let’s move on. Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Guthrie could be had. But the best scenario for Rizzo is that Detwiler and Wang and Marquis all come back guns a blazin’.

I wouldn’t mind Corey Hart, the suddenly non-shitty Andruw Jones, or David Dejesus.

What do you think?


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Up is Down, and Down is Up

It’s been a bit, and I don’t care. What I do care about is that the Nationals are above .500 for the first time in almost 2 years. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I’m not sure what will. What I can say is that the most impressive thing about the Nats’ record at this point in the season is they aren’t playing good baseball. Aside from 2 or 3 games, the pitching has been awful, and the hitting has, until recently, died when the starter was pulled. They also played the Phillies in a home and away series, and they’re still alive. This is all we could ask for.

Again, in spite of their record, many players haven’t gotten going, and some have overperformed. DId anyone seriously expect Ivan Rodriguez to be hitting .419 and slugging .581? If you say you did, you’re a liar. Willingham is hitting .120 points higher than his career average. Our team leader in strikeouts? TYLER CLIPPARD.

For the guys who are stinkin’ up the place despite the Nationals overachivement, here’s a look. Adam Dunn, .156 avg with 2 rbi. Nyjer Morgan, .220 avg (his OBP is okay). Everyday second baseman, Adam Kennedy? .281 OBP. Pitching? Don’t get me started. Here are the guys with ERAs over 5: Mock, Walker, Olsen, Lannan, Burnett, Batista, Bruney, Marquis, Bergmann, and Stammen. Wow.

Yet. Yet. 6-5. If that doesn’t make you more SBF than Capital Pun., check your pulse.

Oh, there are other things. Nats bloggers have been granted credentials to all Nats home games, and some pretty serious access. Sigh, makes me wish I was more dedicated and more…supportive. Not for the access, but for the free tickets. If you’re reading this Nationals employee (you’re not), I can be censored with gifts of tickets.

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Nats Shock the World, by Winning

After witnessing two epic and fundamental failures at Nationals Park over the last three days, I rested. Well, to be honest, I had tickets to the Potomac Nationals opener, and I consulted weatherman Kyle, and he said I should stay home. So stay home I did, as I stare out the window looking at torrential, and biblical rain.
Oh yeah, the Nationals won. It wasn’t without its typicals National moments, including an error in center field, shaky relief pitching, and walks. But, somehow, somewhat, the Nats prevailed. You have to think that not facing Cole Hamels or Roy Halladay was also a major factor in the victory, but they were facing the same lineup.
Craig Stammen pitched decently, if not spactacularly, allowing quite a few hits but not walking anyone and striking out one. After the previous performances by Lannan and Marquis, he looked Tom Glavine esque. Matt Capps pitched a strong 9th after a leadoff double, and was pumped to get his first save.
Christian Guzman is becoming an issue. Not a bad one, but an issue nonetheless. The man can hit. As much as people tried to convince me that Guzman was horrible and we should be rid of him, I believe my eyes. I say he splits time with Kennedy, and leave Desmond be. If Kennedy gets angry, so be it. I can bet that AK won’t be winning us many games with his bat, and won’t be saving too many with his glove. I think he and Guzman ends up a wash, and I’ll take the bat of Guzman. Ridicule away.

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Best Day of the Year

Without a doubt, my favorite day of the year is Opening Day.  Since I was a senior in High School and had dominion in such matters, I would skip school or work and watch baseball all day.  Tomorrow, I continue my legacy of such truancy with a half day at work followed by catching the Nationals home opener.

I know we’ve been silent here for awhile, but the season starts, and I no longer have to think about the last spot in the bullpen, or if Eric Bruntlett or Alberto Gonzalez would make the team (It was the AG).  Kyle and I will both be in attendance with our women, and I’d expect some pictures, a recap, and some major heavy duty twittering.  You’ll most likely be elsewhere, but come swing by here when you’re done.

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Here Comes Your Man: Desmond Crowned, Maxwell Dismissed

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Shortstop

Well, I’m sure this is a move we all kind of saw coming, but somehow thought it would be screwed up somehow.  They didn’t.  Ian Desmond was named the starting Shortstop, moving Cristian Guzman to a utility role, and the “angry man” spot, previously occupied by Jose Guillen, Alfonso Soriano (briefly), and Felipe Lopez.  This of course happens the day after Guzman looks like a world beater against the Mets going 3 for 4.  I guess that’s how that goes.

Riggleman announced that Desmond wouldn’t get 600 ab this year, and that there would be more of a rotation depending on how was hotter.  He also claimed that the shoulder had nothing to do with Guzman’s demotion.  This is undoubtedly some trade promotion spin, which Rizzo probably scripted.  The best case scenario would be Desmond playing well, and a willing trade partner to take Guzman and his salary.

Much has been made of Guzman’s low OBP, poor defense and weak arm.  I would speculate that some teams wouldn’t mind his wild slap hitting ways in exchange for average defense, but for a team that needs strong up the middle defense, this move had to be made.  However, I think the point that will become evident is that Desmond is not a gold glover either.  Hopefully, Danny Espinosa continues to develop in Harrisburg and can challenge Desmond in the coming years.

The other move that was announced this Sunday morning was that Justin Maxwell had been sent to AAA Syracuse to being the season.

Justin Maxwell, with a horrendous Spring, slides into Syracuse

The team had practically indicated that Maxwell, with even an average spring, would be the guy in Right Field after the release of Elijah Dukes this month.  Maxwell couldn’t seize hold of the spot, hitting .102 and striking out 20 times in 49 at bats.  That won’t do.  I believe Maxwell realizes that his career is slipping away, and will take the demotion better than last year.  If he performs well, I can see Maxwell coming back up and playing Right this season, unless the team signs a proven RF.  The other options don’t seem like they’ll be able to stave off a strong challenge from Maxwell, if he can provide that.


Desmond will be starting shortstop

FJB saying that Willie Harris in RF isn’t the Nats biggest problem. I disagree, and the chart the he showed had Harris as the forth worst RF in the league.  Production is necessary from that spot, even with above average power at 1B, and 3B, and likely league average production in LF.

Nationals Enquirer looking at the effect of Strasburg on the Harrisburg Senators.

Brian at NFA says what he thinks of Desmond being the SS.

NatsStats has an informative chart that shows where the Nats pitchers are performing in re: ground ball and strike outs.  The position of Scott Olsen on the chart is highly illustrative.

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The Price of A Happy Clubhouse

I’m sure that has been covered all over the internet because this blog has been slow to post things when we need to.  Apologies for our failure to adapt to the immediacy of the internet and blogs.

As everyone in the entire Nats-focused world knows, Elijah Dukes was cut yesterday.  He didn’t see it coming, and neither did anyone else.  Numerous interviews with Riggs and Rizzo stated that it was solely a “baseball decision”.  They then contradicted themselves by talking more about the benefits to team camaraderie and clubhouse happiness than to the improved performance out of the new Right Fielder.  Know why?

Because this wasn’t a baseball decision.  Well it kind of was.  But it mostly wasn’t.  The thinking was, “Ok, this dude is an asshole and no one really likes him and has to watch everything they do and say around him.  Also, he’s pretty average.  Sure, he has “potential” but he’s had some time, and all he’s done is get picked off, drop fly balls, and sweat a lot.  Let’s cut this dude, and let…whoever we can come with take over.  Know who would be great? Willie Harris! What, where are you going?  Stop laughing!”

Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris, Mike Morse, Mystery Man.  One or more of these will be your Right Fielder for the foreseeable future.  Know who the RF of the future is?  Michael Burgess.  See how many K’s he had this last season?  No?  A lot. 135. In 545 PA.  Phew.

So, watch this space for some developments, and hope Justin Maxwell can make the most of the biggest opportunity he’s ever been given.

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Alright, Now I’m Pissed

Blah, blah, blah.  Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, I like you guys.  You’re the two best players on this team.

However, shut up.  Your quotes today about how “no one cares about the record” and “a lot of these guys won’t be on the team” and “wah wah ahhh wah spin spin”, have pissed me off.

Guess what fellas?  You aren’t playing the starting 9 for the WS Champs every day.  You are playing other teams mix of starters and scrubs, and they’re owning you.  Every day, up and down, complete ownage.  We’ve culled the chaff at this point, mostly.  You have few excuses left.  Tonight, other than Left and Center, and the unfortunately less likely to start Ian Desmond at short, you’ve got your opening day lineup.  What happened?  You got beat.  Your starters had three hits.

I’ll give you D Lowe as an excuse.  Mike Dunn may be a handy player too.  Everyone else? Nope.  Not buying what you’re selling.

Its time to win an occasional game, folks.  If you flipped a coin 12 times, its gotta come up heads once.  Right?

There were brighter spots tonight, but not too many.  Garrett Mock rebounded from a rough start to settle in.  I’ll take what he gave tonight.  Tyler Walker didn’t explode.  Martis had his best outing of the Spring, but it still won’t save him from Syracuse.  I continue to like Pudge in the field, and he will occasionally chip in with the bat.  But the bad side?  Let’s count it down.

As mentioned previously, the bats were ice cold for the starters.  Let’s pick up the pitcher, fellas.  Matt Capps has forgotten what a zero looks like, as yet another gopher ball jumps the wall on him.  Drew Storen is a human being.  Glad to know that.  2/3 of your starting outfield wouldn’t hit the ocean if they fell out of a boat right now.  This may be the result of handing out positions to players whom it would be charitable to call “accomplished”.

Let’s get it together.  Let’s not strangle the optimism out of the newly hopefully fanbase so soon, and show that the team can be something other than embarrassing.  Starting….tomorrow?

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Jon’s Jam o’ the Day: 3/10/10

In honor of the recent cuts of Eddie Guardado, Shawn Estes, and maybe, hopefully, Tyler Walker soon, I’m going to play the badass bullpen song for a player I hope the Nats re-sign.  Enjoy.

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Spring Training is Meaningless

Repeat that phrase.  Know it.  Love it.  Need it.

After listening t0 some real clunkers this week, I’m willing to wipe the slate clean.  For tomorrow comes the ointment, the salve, the band aid.  Tomorrow has the ability to mentally wipe this past week from the minds of fans who have thus far been disappointed by amateurish pitching and the lack of fundamental defense.  Steven Strasburg has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and tomorrow, all eyes will be on him.

With these expectations, you would do well to examine the potential outcomes.

1) 3 ip, 0 hits, 5 k.

This is the dream scenario.  In this dream scenario, the Nats give SS 6 runs of support early, and the team coasts to a shut out victory.  Storen would also give another 1-2-3 performance.

2) 2 ip, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 ER, 2 K

This is the likely scenario as far as I’m concerned.  I know the stuff he has, but I also know that the pressure could crush him, and that major leaguers are good.  Even this line would still overshadow the rest of the staff, aside from Mock, Martin, and Chico.

3) 1 ip, 50 pitches thrown, 4 runs, 3 ER, 0 K, 1 detached arm

This shouldn’t happen.  It could.  I can tell you that if it does, the world will end (at least on South Capitol Street).  This blog will also melt, causing the internet to flood.  So if the above happens, avoid the internet.  Slippery when wet.

Tomorrow, we’ll get back on the JJOTD train, which I’m sure you’ve missed.  Also, we’ll recap Strasburg’s debut, and hopefully be talking about the Nats’ first win.  This week, we’ll also look at who we think should get cut first.  So, look forward to that.

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