Nationals Baseball: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Choose your own adventure Rizzo style

You look out over the park and watch the Nats take BP.  It's a good team you think. Real good. But is it good enough? Ever since you stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished, only to find yourself in Mike Rizzo's body, you've been wracked with doubt.  The team is playing well, first place, best record in baseball good, but the bench has you worried, especially with the injuries mounting up. You've got that whole Strasburg thing coming up. You are going to shut him down. Ziggy says there's a 88% chance you are here to stop Mike Rizzo from blowing out Strasburg's arm, which happened on October 1st, 2012.  But can you do something so the team carries on without him? Plus the pen has been worrying lately. This is why Jim Bowden must act the way he does, you think.  Driven insane by the pressure.

You go to the phone and pick it up. Sara says "Can I get anyone on the line for you?". It's time for you to respond.

If you say "Get me Theo on line 1" go to paragraph 1
If you say "Dan O'Dowd, please" go to paragraph 2
If you say "Let's give Mike Hill another ring" go to paragraph 3
If you say "Theo, and let them know it's for a bat" go to paragraph 4
If you say "Daniels in Texas"  go to paragraph 5
If you say "Why should I care, this isn't my real... forget it I'm tired.  Let's just go crazy.  Get me Towers" go to paragraph 6
If you say "Potbelly. I need something to eat"  go to paragraph 7

Ryan Dempster stares down the Cardinals as the Nats crowd shifts restlessly.  He's already given up 5 and it's only the 3rd inning. He has only been this bad one other start for you but it doesn't matter.  You've decided the only way he starts a game for the Nats in the playoffs is if they are up 3 games to none. It's not like Dempster's been a total failure. Remember that gem vs the Dodgers?  Could Lannan have done that? 

You fall back in your chair. Sure hope Rosenbaum and Ray don't pan out. You look at the injury report. LaRoche is still out.  Desmond doesn't look healthy.  The Nats are still in first, but aren't scoring any runs. A bat. I should have gotten a bat.

There are two outs in the 6th and the Nats are up 6-2 on the Cardinals. Lannan comes out to a nice little ovation and you scoff.  He gave up 10 hits and 3 walks. That gets an ovation?  The ovation dies out and you see Davey is bringing in Betancourt. In the 6th. What the hell was I drinking getting a relief pitcher?  He's been fine sure, but so has everyone else for the most part.  And we didn't need him. Sure things got tight there for a week or so after Strasburg was shut down but the Nats are still in first. So what if the offense is looking at little slim with the injuries. The Nats are in. What else do fans want?

You fall back in your chair, still thinking about it. But that's what GMs do right? Trade for relief pitchers? Ah at least I didn't give up anything... I hope. 

Emilio Bonaficio hustles down to first but can't beat the throw.  Game over. Cards win 5-4. The Nats fall for the third time in a row. Sure they clinched the pennant yesterday, thanks to the Pirates beating the Braves but this is not how you want to go into the playoffs.  Bonaficio hitting an empty .210 while the 4 runs the Nats scored today are the most they've scored in the past week. Pitching has been fine but did I really think Bonaficio was going to make a difference with all these injuries?

You fall back in your chair. You hear over the radio that Goodwin has hit another homerun for the Marlins. You weren't planning on giving him anything good but Mike Hill was just talking so fast! Obviously this is not the line of work for me. Maybe I'll jump into a chef next time.   

Bryce settles under the ball and closes his glove. That's 100! The team crowds around the mound and you've never seen a happier bunch, especially Soriano.  Ok his fielding has been rough and he swings at everything but that's what this team does. Patience and good OF D is on the backburner for now in lieu of offense. And what a couple months it's been. Everyone has been hot.  Werth, Desmond, Zimm, Morse. You barely miss LaRoche, but even he's been great off the bench this past week.  He'll make a hell of pinch hitter, defensive replacement, and maybe even spell Morse against tough righties. Better yet it's been like a homecoming. You barely remembered Soriano being a National but apparently they never forgot in DC.  They absolutely love this guy.

Sure you have no clue what you are going to do with they guy for the next 3 years, but at least you got the Cubs to eat half of that remaining salary and didn't have to give up anything they were so desperate to deal him.  You bang on the front of the luxury box window and shake hands all around. 100 wins. I hope Rizzo appreciates this.

Torrealba stands on first after smacking a single up the middle. It's his first hit in a couple games, but he's the only Nats catcher to have a hit since the 20th of September. Yeah, it was the right move picking him up.  He's not great but I'd rather roll the dice with him in the playoffs. You can't just dismiss the guy like pitchers have done with Solano at this point.

You sit in your chair and review your playoff lineup. The team isn't scoring runs like it was for a month there but it's an average lineup even with LaRoche still out. That's better than it had been to start the year. Average with this pitching can be good enough. Dodgers in the first round can't hit. We'll be fine. I better start checking out Cincinnati hotels.

You look at Justin Upton and Steven Drew on the bench. You can tell they aren't happy, but who would be hitting a collective .215? Upton should pick up next year, right? And maybe you can flip Drew in the offseason, but for what I don't know. The kid looks done.  The Nats team stares out the dugout at another shutout loss, this time 8-0. 

You kick your chair in frustration. You wonder if you should even bother showing up for the Wild Card game.  The crowd is just going to boo the hell out of you. And why shouldn't they, dealing Jordan Zimmermann and Lombardozzi to the Diamondbacks for these two.  Sure some have defended you.  How were you to know that Gio would go down the start after you shut down Strasburg, but you know it's your fault. Hopefully I'll jump tonight.  Maybe if I concentrate really hard I can do it right now. 

No?  Damn.

Mmmmmmmmmmm.  That was a good sandwich. 

You pop open your laptop. Let's see what's on sale on Steam.  You notice that you have some unread emails.  139!  Ha! It's just a game people! You close your laptop and instead pull out your iPad and a beer. You've got a half-hour to kill before the new Rizzoli and Isles. 

Being a GM sure is easy.

(Note: Of course the above is all nonsense. What do I really think? A back-up catcher would be smart even a Shoppach/Torrealba one as long as you give up nothing. I'd like another good bat on the bench but that's easier said than done. After that it depends on the injury situation.  If Desmond and LaRoche will be back soon doing nothing is ok. But if the Nats even think they could be out for an extended period, say into September, and they do nothing - that's a bad non-move)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Quickie - Nats v Braves

Did you print them out? The question isn't "if" but "in what role" and what will decide that is one very simple question - can the Braves play four games better than the Nats down the stretch.  I've pointed out the unlikely scenarios that would take, but unlikely scenarios aren't impossible ones.  Let's take a look at the remaining schedules to see who has the edge.  

Head to Head : 6 games left, 3 in DC in August, 3 in ATL in September.  No advantage, and the Nats could likely put the Braves away in that first series making the second one irrelevant.  

Home v Away : The Braves play 30 games at home the rest of the year.  The Nats play 34. Advantage Nats, you'd think. The Braves though have been great on the road and mediocre at home this season.  Just a fluke? Probably.   

Long Stretch: The Braves have the longest stretch playing 20 straight games from August 10th-29th, ending in a West Coast swing. But their second longest stretch is 13 games.  The Nats play stretches of 17 games (starting tomorrow, also ending on the West Coast), 16 and 15 games in the last few months. Why's it work out that way? They have two, odd, DAY OFF - 3 GAME SERIES - DAY OFF, 5 day sets coming up.  Don't see an advantage either way right now, if the Braves are still close come September though they'll have a slight edge here. 

Uncommon Opponenets: 
Braves : Home v Astros (3), Padres (4), Rockies (4).  Away vs the Giants (4), Padres (3), Mets (3), Brewers (3), Pirates (3).
Nats : Home vs Cardinals (4), Cubs (4), Brewers (4), Phils (3).  Away vs the Astros (4), D-Backs (3), Giants (3), Cardinals (3).

NL East wise the Braves get an extra series vs the Mets away vs the Nats playing the Phillies in DC.  I don't like the way either of these teams are playing right now.  Outside the division, you'll notice that the Braves catch three of the worst teams in the NL at home. 11 games. where they should win 9 or so. The Nats get the Cubs and a fading Brew Crew instead, slightly better teams, and they catch the Astros away. Right now I give the edge the the Braves but that could change. The Nats don't play the Cardinals until late August.  With any luck they'll be out of it, rather than surging for a playoff spot.  Sometimes it's not who you play, but when you play 'em.

Overall, I wouldn't go either way right now.  IF the Braves hold close, and finish that 20 game stretch (which includes the next Braves v Nats set) within say... 3 games AND the Cardinals stay close in the WC race, then you can worry about that September.  If instead the Braves and Cardinals fall off, and the Nats find themselves 6 up heading into the final month with a set vs the Dodgers as the only non-Braves playoff contending team left, you can kick up your feet and coast into the pennant.

Other Notes :
  • ZNN is getting both over and underrated.  How could he be overrated after such an awesome month/season?  The whole "6IP" thing.  It's a pretty meaningless accomplishment in any single game. Six innings doesn't "save" a bullpen, nor does it ensure a win. It's nice to have over and over again but to celebrate it is to celebrate consistency, not excellence.  It's a Don Sutton of stats, not a Tom Seaver.   How could he be underrated? HE GAVE UP 5 RUNS IN 6 STARTS IN JULY.  He had 31 baserunners in 37 innings. He had 31 strikeouts in same time frame. 
  • Yes I know the Nats offense has looked pretty good this past month, that's even accounting for the Coors Field explosion. But they also have only played 3 games vs teams with a better than average pitching staff during that time. They've faced the Braves (8th) twice, the Marlins (10th), the Mets (12th) twice, the Brewers (14th) and the Rockies (16th) twice. The good news is that they don't face many good pitching staffs the rest of the way either so I'd expect this scoring run to continue in some fashion.
  • Relief pitching worrying you? Maybe it should.  Their ERA is up to 4.73 in July.  
  • Yeah I know you are also probably worried about the injuries piling up.  Desmond, LaRoche.  Just remember the Nats were injured before.  As long as the starters hold up the team will be fine.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Print them out, dammit!

The Nats can wait on sizing their heads for the NL East crown.  No one wants to scream "No Comeuppance!" only to be comeupped, and potentially, I guess, they could somehow stumble through the remainder of the season while the Braves tear it up and end up losing the crown by a few games.  But miss the playoffs? Seriously? If the Nats haven't left that territory yet they are showing their passports to the border patrol as we speak.

I like to think this is just soulless automaton Harper speaking, but maybe this has a lot to do with where I'm coming from. I'm not a DC sports fan and I don't know your trauma. (I've been exceedingly lucky in my sports fandom - you may vomit if I spell it all out).  I don't expect the other shoe to drop, not on a team that's as talented as the Nats. But similar things have happened, like Jamie Mottram told you over at Mr. Irrelevant, so I guess expecting the worse is understandable.

Then again, if we concentrate on just the playoffs, the Nats are in. Do you know how many NL teams 20 games over on July 27th have failed to make the playoffs in the Wild Card Era?  Zero. (Last team to do it was the 1993 SF Giants) And that's with one wild card. It has happened a few times in the AL, most notably last year with the Red Sox, but that brings up something that you need to consider when looking at other teams that have failed. What exactly was their situation?

The 2011 Red Sox bombed out, in part because there were two excellent teams in their own division, which meant games they could lose that would directly help someone that was going to take their spot. They would go 4-5 to the Yanks to end the year, and 2-8 versus the Rays. Even then they'd need a 7-20 September overall AND a loss in the last game of the year and a Rays win to lose that spot. Are there two excellent teams in the NL East? Maybe, if you really like a healthy Phillies team, but Philadelphia is 9 games under. (Tampa was 3 over at the time they got hot) Maybe they can win a lot and beat up on the Nats but you don't turn around 9 games under into the playoffs. Looking at another way the Nats are not one of these teams, a team like the 2007 Mets, who blew their lead, were a good team but only good. At this point they were a 12 game over .500 team. They had spent June and July playing middling baseball after a super hot start. The Nats are 20 games over, and have been consistently very good. They are much better than that Mets team.
The Nats are not merely leading the NL East. They are one of the best teams in baseball leading their division.  In order to miss the playoffs the Nats would not only have to play 5+ games worse than the Braves, but also at least 5+ games worse than the Pirates AND 7 games worse than the Cardinals (or 7+ worse than the Dodgers after that it's like 11 games and I'm going to go out on that limb and say the Nats aren't playing 11 games worse than a team currently at .500 or worse for the rest of the year)  So if the Nats go 32-32 that means the Braves go 37-27(or the rough equivalent, I'm not counting up actual games here), the Pirates go 37-27, and the Cardinals go 39-25.  Could it? I guess. Will it? Not likely.

In fact I'll just say no. No the Nats will not miss the playoffs.  The collapse would have to be so extreme that I just don't see it happening, not with the talent the Nats have, not with the lack of talent we see across most of the NL. Start clearing October now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Phillies aren't dumb and the Marlins aren't the same old Marlins

While the Nats roll merrily along, two of their NL East rivals have made interesting moves. The Phillies have decided to re-sign, rather than trade, Cole Hamels and the Marlins have dealt three of their better players, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and Hanley Ramirez.  A lot of people are taking the view that the Phillies are dumb and have doomed themselves to non-relevance in the near future, while they are looking at the Marlins as "same old fire sale Marlins".  I don't buy it.

In 2010, the Phillies defined their window by signing Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, and extending Roy Halladay. The "end year" would be 2015.  They were committed to keeping a core of talented players until that year and they verified this again by paying Papelbon a dump truck of money to pitch for them until the same year, and keeping Jimmy Rollins around for the same amount of time. The rebuilding process is already in the plans, but beginning (if necessary) at the end of 2014, not now. By letting Hamels go they'd be starting a rebuilding process two years early, meaning a talent exodus that wouldn't end for 3 seasons.  A slow and painful death followed by the unknown that is rebuilding from within. Often rebuilding DOESN'T lead to success - you don't get Mulder, Zito and Hudson all developing; you don't get back to back generational talents when you have the #1 pick - often it leads to a middle ground of mediocrity. You could cross your fingers and hope you make enough smart moves and get lucky enough that in 2016/7 you are good again, or you could roll with a very talented team for a few more years.

By signing Hamels, they remain committed, at least for one more season but probably 2 or 3, to the window they had set up for themselves. The team itself is finally back together and is 7-3 in the last 10.  You'd be rolling into next year with a rotation with Halladay, Hameles, and Lee (not to mention a pretty good Vance Worley) and a lineup with Howard, Utley, Ruiz and Pence at it's heart. That is a team that last year won over 100 games, that is very well still a playoff team. Yes it means expecting a lot health-wise but that's what you have to hope for to have plaoyffs years, or did you not notice that the Nats top 4 starters have been healthy all year?

As for the Marlins the gamble was that the team would be good enough to compete this season.  Bring in Reyes, bring in Buehrle and get yourself a pennant race. Didn't happen, so now what? The minor leagues for the Marlins is pretty bare. There was little help coming, especially in the rotation. You could keep trying to throw money at this, watching as most of your starters go over 30 and into oblivion or you could pull the rip cord now. The Marlins best players, and one of the best players in the league, is Giancarlo Stanton who is 22. He is a special player. The new plan has to work around him, because you don't know when you'll get another like him. Get as many major league ready prospects as you can and cross your fingers that they work out.  That's what they've done.  Eovaldi and Turner are ready for long looks in a major league rotation, Brantley might be ready to catch at the major league level next season. Get lucky and maybe these guys can help you out right away.  The likely "worst case" though is that they are all major league players for as long as you have Stanton. Along with their top prospect, OF Christian Yelich, they could be the kind of cheap filler that you can then work around signing guys in 2015 or so to fill in the holes.

This isn't a fire sale. This isn't a team that could compete right away.  It looked more like a team looking to hover around .500 for a year or two until it crashed back down.  By jumping the gun and grabbing guys that look to be part of a Stanton led team a couple years down the road, the Marlins have given themselves hope that they'll be as relevant as they wanted to be in 2012 in some year not too far down the road. .

What does this means for the Nats? Well it means the Phillies are going to try to compete for the NL East for the next couple years, and if the Marlins get a little lucky with who they get back in these deals, they could be good right when the Phillies can't avoid entering a decline phase.  The Nats were on the verge of looking at an NL East that would be the Braves and them competing for as long as this current team is intact, with everyone else being also-rans.  Instead they get a legit contender (assuming health) for the next couple seasons, and a possible one for the couple after that.  The Nats talent would continue to make them the favorite, but their margin over error doesn't get any larger.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Man that NL East crown sure does look ready to pick on that tree

So that ends that. Any chance of the Mets being a threat to the Nats ended last night as the Nats pitching held the game close and forced Terry Collins to go deep into a bullpen where even the top guys aren't reliable. Eventually in that cirucmstance, the Nats would win and they did busting it wide open in the 10th.  Before this game Mets fans could dream of a sweep, closing the gap back to 5.5 games, and a record of 2 games over .500.  I know that doesn't sound like much but it keeps the dream alive (they are still talking about Wild Card right now and this is roughly where they stand in that).  But now the best they can do is 7.5 back and a .500 record and does anyone want to bet on the Nats losing back to back Gio / Strasburg games? Does it change your mind if I tell you the great Jeremy Hefner is pitching game 2?

So as NL East contenders the Mets are done, the Phillies were toast at first pitch of the season (but still won't admit it), and the Marlins, in trading Sanchez and Infante, have waived the white flag for 2012 (smart move by Hill/Beinfest - really this is a franchise to look out for, just not this year). That leaves the Braves, who have consistently gone out of their way to not crest that hill and truly challenge the Nats, as the last contender. The Nats don't play the Braves again for a month. Between then and now the Braves have a slightly easier go of it than the Nats. I imagine the Nats will go into that series on August 20th with about the same lead they have now, maybe a game less or more. If that's the case, the Nats could land a knockout blow on the Braves that week and spend a month doing a victory lap as NL East champions.

Here I'll add the caveat that anything can happen, because it can, but likely scenarios are all pointing to the Nats as NL East Champs.  As of now, the Braves can't afford to go on an extended (let's say 6+ games) losing streak or have the Nats go on the equivalent winning streak. Even if the actual games lost by the Braves is just 1 and a half, it becomes too big a hill to climb. Think of it  - right now if the Nats went 34-33 for the rest of the season (disappointing based on how they've played the first 95 games) the Braves would have to go 38-28 to tie (better pace than they've played this season). Not impossible but both are unlikely situations.  Now lose a game and a half in standings and more importantly 6 games to make it up. If the Nats go the same mediocre 31-30, the Braves have to go 37-23.  That's the pace of a 100 win team over the last two months of the season.

It's almost here folks. I don't think we'll be able to call it until after that next Braves series but it's almost here. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Monday... Monday

What a difference order makes. If the Nats had won the first two games then lost the last two we'd be bemoaning the fact that the Nats missed a chance to put away the Braves. The Negative Nellie Olesons would be forcasting gloom and doom with the back of the rotation spotty (What will happen when Strasburg is shut down!) and with Ian now out for an extended period of time.

Of course that didn't happen.  Instead the Nats lost the first two and won the next two. That's why most Nats fans are pretty jazzed. They stared down a team hungry to take the Nats out and suffered a brutal loss but bounced back to take the last two games behind a call-up and the 5th starter! Best team ever!  Such heart!

What do I think?  A little disappointing not to take 3 games in a series at home versus a team that's no better than you, but 2-2 is fine. What you didn't want to see is a Braves team that looked better than the Nats. You didn't want to see a team that could make a legit run at the NL East and you know what? You didn't see that team. Sheets pitching well only holds ground for the Braves.  Hanson has been floundering. Jurrjens looked HIDEOUS and should be shut down for the year. Honestly, the worst thing about the weekend is that it could force the Braves to realize they need to make a move for a Greinke.

Notes -
  • Jamie Mottram at Mr Irrelevant  had a great take on Lannan coming in for Strasburg later in the year.  You should read it if you haven't already. Which you probably have.
  • How funny is it now to go back and read those apocalyptic tweets following the game 2 loss.  "last night = turning point of season", "last nite works like that. We r human we feed off emotion. Season ended last nite. Mark my words."  Ha! 
  • Desmond loss is big... depending on a couple things.  Can Morse find his power stroke? Can Bryce go on another dominant stretch? Can Werth hit like he did before going out?  There's a lot of places the Nats could make up for Ian's loss.
  • I told myself not to worry about Zimm or Danny and they have come through to not make me look like a fool.  Danny has had an excellent July (.354 / .394 / .569), Zimm's is other worldly (.414 / .481 / .886).
Also, I've always found the "In his first X games Bryce is doing this comapred to Mike Trout" silly (mainly because I think it favors Trout) so to stop anyone from using that I'll note that Trout has passed Bryce using that metric too.

Trout (First 74) : .281 / .338 / .479  10HR, 38RBI, 44R, 13SB
Bryce (First 74) :  .269 / .339 / .438  8HR, 26RBI, 48R, 12SB

(In the next 6 games  Mike Trout will hit .440 and steal 6 bases. Then will have a 6 game mini slump then will be hot until... well until whenever he isn't hot again - he's hit .412 with 9 homers in the past month).  Mike Trout is the better player right now.  Doesn't mean you'd rather have him on your team, or that he'll have a better career, (Bryce is 14 months younger at an age when that really matters) but this shouldn't be an argument now.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Don't get swept

It should be a pretty easy proposition.  The Nats are at home and you can't make the argument that the Braves are better than the Nats. The Nats have made a habit out of beating the Braves this year and the Braves have made a habit of getting to the edge of a breakthrough only to tumble back down to the pack. 3-1 is the smart bet, and a Nats sweep might make more sense than a 1-3 series in the Braves favor.

Still, this is baseball - anything can happen, and the Nats fans have been waiting all season for some sort of shoe to drop. Is this really already a 90+ win team that can take the NL East without breaking a sweat? The matchups don't help clear anything up.  After Strasburg v Hanson (which the Nats should have the edge) there are three straight games where the pitcher on either side could be replaced by a question mark.

Sheets v Jackson - Ben Sheets pitched 20 games in 2010. Then didn't pitch again until his two warm up minor league starts this month. His first start went well but there's no telling what he's back to being.  Edwin Jackson was cruising along as one of the big 4 but in his last few starts he's been giving up a bunch of runs.  It's not one thing in particular.  He walks one or two more, gives up one or two more hits and that's enough to tip the scales. The good news is it wouldn't take much for him to get back to where he was. Is this just a blip?

Delgado v Lannan - Randall Delgado has a lot of potential, but control issues have kept him from being effective.  The talent is there that if he's on he can shut you down but you only see that once every few games. Probably he'll give up a bunch of walks and get beat around. We all know Lannan. He hasn't been impressive in AAA but who knows if that's talent or mind set. He's never been known as a dominating force so a shutout win is unlikely, you just want a classic Lannan performance and not some sort of disaster.

Jurrjens v Detwiler - Jurrjens had been one of the best pitchers in the league last year and two years before that, but he's injury prone and if he's not healthy he can get hit hard.  He looked healthy coming back from his most recent stint out but that all came crashing down in a terrible game against the Giants in his last start. Is the brief return of good Jurrjens already over?  As for Detwiler, I hope no one is kidding themselves.  He's fine as a 5 but not much more than that. He'll have bad games and good games, but as long as he avoids the homers (like he has most of the year) he should keep the Nats in it.
How to call these games? It takes a lot of luck for the Braves to play in a 4-game series with the Nats and not get 2 of Stras/Gio/ZNN but that's exactly what they are going to see. The Nats could just as easily lose big in all three as win big. It's all going to come down to who happens to pitch well that day, which should make for a hell of a series.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Charmed Year

A week ago I brought up 8 points to watch in this second half.  You could argue that 5 1/2 have been trending negative in the past week.

What kind of production will the Nats get from the catcher position?

Can Ian keep it up?
No (not his fault - he can't play)

Bryce Harper, good rookie or immediate impact player?
Still slumping.

Will Mike Morse ever get back to Beast Mode?
Unless "Singly Joe Morse" is considered a beast, we're still waiting.

Can the Nats elite pitchers keep up the homer gap?
Gio didn't give up a homer in his start but Clip has made up for that hasn't he?

Can the "other guys" in the pen keep stranding runners?
Burnett and Mattheus have been good. Stammen's been lucky.  Rest of pen has struggled, hence the half-point

Not that any of these are at all "answered".  It's been a week for god's sake. But in one week a lot hasn't gone right and it hasn't mattered at all.  The Nats are still 4-2 over this time. The starting pitching is that good. 4 of the Nats start have resulted in 0 ER given up by the starters.  If I just throw out Edwin's start the totals over 5 starts are as follows.

31IP, 24H, 30 Ks, 2 BBs

2 WALKS! In 31 innings! When your starting pitching is that good it can make up for a lot of other stuff.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anyone got a catcher?

The Nats offensive issues are not easily solved. Everyone is entrenched in their position, except for RF which is just waiting for Werth to come back.  While there is talent at nearly every position there isn't THAT much talent.  Sure if the Nats are hitting on all cylinders they can score some runs but you don't usually do that.  Usually some guys are hot, some are cold, and the rest are average.  Like right now, Zimm is super hot, Danny is doing ok.  Meanwhile Bryce is ice cold and the rest of the every day players are doing mediocre at best. Ian back in the lineup will help but he's just one bat.

The only place the Nats do have a spot that isn't committed to someone is at catcher.  With Ramos on the sidelines with a serious injury and no good back-up in place (sorry Flores you had your shot) the Nats may be able to get a cheap boost of offense from a rental catcher.  But who's available?

MLBTradeRumors gives us the following list:  Kurt Suzuki, Ramon Hernandez, Geovany Soto, Kelly Shoppach, Humberto Quintero.  Any of them worth it? For comparison Flores is hitting .234 / .273 / .348.

Suzuki - .216 / .252 / .267.  At 28 Suzuki shouldn't be done, but he seems like he fell off a cliff.  Even if you like him (Maybe Gio puts in a good word), he's signed for some decent money next season which the Nats would have to eat (or play him Ramos may need the time)

Hernandez - .206 /.248 /.373.  Still pretty decent power and was hitting as recently as last year.  At 36 though you really can believe he's done.  If you can't hit in Colorado then where can you?  Also he too is signed for next year.

Soto - .189 / .268 / .351. Like Ramon, was hitting ok the past few seasons.  Like Ramon terrible this year.  He's under team control so that's something but that means a lot less at 29. 

Shoppach -  .263 / .358 / .516.  A guy who's hitting, finally! Shoppach has sat a lot, missed most tough righties, but if you can ignore that he's done rather well.  His recent number suggest he's fluking into a good year (nearly .400 BABIP) but there's nothing wrong with grabbing someone while they are hot and hoping to ride it out.  The longer the Red Sox stay in the hunt though the less likely a deal is made.

Quintero - .232 /.257 / .341.  Yes he is available.  Certainly so. Moving on.

If you made me choose, I guess I might try Soto or Hernandez, but it would have to be for next to nothing. Hernandez's salary next year is low enough to eat.  Soto's won't be terribly high either.  Both seem to have a little bad luck pushing their averages down, but then again they are aging catchers and those guys tend to be slow and have low BABIPs.  Their power is still decent. I guess I like Soto actually a little better.

The most intriguing possible available player is the Blue Jays JP Arencibia, He had some nice power and average numbers in the minors (and not just in the PCL) and has hung on in the majors.  At 26 he might have a few surprisingly good years left. But the Blue Jays are trying for the WC and their catcher of the future Travis d'Arnaud is out with a serious injury. Which means they'd have to bomb out quickly AND have a strong sense d'Arnaud is ok for the future to make any deal. I'm not sure that will happen.

I guess if I were in Mike Rizzo's shoes, Soto for a middle reliever might be worth a try. Mattheus? Arnesen? These guys are back of the pen material for the Nats and at age 28, aren't young guys you worry about losing.  Or maybe a AA or low A guy who is actually young but is only potential now. Chances of losing a lights out closer from someone like that is slim (look at H-Rod).  But if he wants to roll with Flores I can't hardly blame him.  There's no guarantee of help out there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Quickie

As I've been traipsing about South Florida for the last few days I can't say much about the Nats.  I did see them in Miami, but it's not like I have any insights into their play from the upper deck.  So here are some general insights.
  • Strasburg may be the best pitcher in baseball and on the minds of people in DC, but for Nats fans in Miami he's clearly second (third? 5th?) fiddle.  I saw 0 Strasburg jerseys there and I saw an Ankiel and a Lombardozzi, for christ's sake.
  •  Who did the fans wear? Zimmerman some, but mostly Bryce Harper. Even as he slumps (he's hit .227 / .280 / .318 for the past month) Bryce Harper demands the most attention from the crowd.  And while there is some love/hate thing going on, more people seem positive (or at least neutral) to the kid, than openly dislike him, even at a "hostile" crowd. Whatever IT is, he has it.
  • The Miami crowd was pretty dead.  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because the game didn't do them any favors. The Marlins fell behind early, mounted no real challenges, the best on being erased on one pitch with the Austin Kearns DP before the crowd could even get excited.  It also felt long watching it, and the play was sloppy on both sides. 
  • That is a big field.  You don't really notice it at first with everything else to look at (including what's gotta be the busiest scoreboard in the majors) but you start looking down the lines and realize there is a lot of green out there. Zimmerman murdered that ball. 
  • The Marlins field crew haven't learned yet how to grow grass on this field.  Lots of patchy spots and some actual strips of sod in place
  • The aquarium might as well not be there.  A neat idea but doesn't execute well.
  • ZNN seemed in complete control.  It didn't feel like the Marlins were hitting much hard at all.  
  • I appreciate Marlins park for what it's trying to do. I really like the "neon" green of the OF walls and that silly HR thing didn't bother me at all. You strip all the identifying baseball items from the stadium and you still might be able to place it as being in Miami.  Not many stadiums can say that. 
  • I also hit up Tampa Bay (vs the Red Sox) and while the stadium was worse (though not as hideous as I imagined from what I've heard) the experience was better. More excitement from the crowd, better game, and you get to touch rays in a pool in the outfield. Also had free shuttles/trolleys you could take from a surprisingly decent downtown.  Wade Boggs was there signing autographs and charging for pics. 
  • Food was better at Marlins Park.  Beer was better at the Trop.
  • Also on the subject of beer - take those "craft beer available" with a grain of salt.  There's a big difference between several stations set up both on the upper deck and concourse, and one little out of the way place you have to trek to. Marlins Park was the latter (and had nothing local)
If you are wondering, this leaves me with 11 Stadiums to go to see a game at.  Rogers Centre, Kauffman, Target, Ballpark at Arlington, Angels, Oakland, Busch, Minute Maid, Dodgers, Chase (Arizona) and Citifield.   I've toured Dodger and seen All-Star events like the HR Derby in Minute Maid, but not games.  Next up is probably Citi - but I can hit that whenever.  Favorite so far remains PNC, least favorite is probably the Trop but like I said it isn't awful.  They do the best they can.  Turner is probably my least favorite "new park" experience.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Taking my talents to Little Havana

Someone is going to see the Nats play tonight.  I don't know who.  Might be me.  Anyway if the stadium wifi works as promised expect some tweets from me in situ tonight. Because baseball is best enjoyed hunched over a smart phone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Things to Watch

Unlike last year,Nats fans going into the second half don't have to find things to be interested in. They have the whole PENNANT RACE thing to keep them busy.  But even playoff caliber teams have a lot of questions and the Nats are no different.  We'll table the Strasburg discussion for now, and the injury returns of Werth and Storen, but here are some other things to keep an eye on as the 2nd half progresses. 

What kind of production will the Nats get from the catcher position?
For few weeks after Ramos went down Jesus Flores played capably.  But the past month has been brutal for him.  The Nats have caught a good start from Solano but a 26 year old who has never hit higher than .275 in the minors isn't going to hit .350 in the majors... or .300.. or maybe even .250.  (the BABIP bares that out - .360 so far.  Unsustainable for him) If Solano hits like he should and Flores doesn't bounce back, this spot could be a big hole in the lineup.  

Can Ian keep it up? 
For the past 4 plus months (going back to last year) Ian has hit with renewed and consistent power.  For the past 2 months Ian has hit like one of the bets power hitters in the league. The Nats stuck with Ian for a long time hoping for this outcome, but how real is it?  Great half-years do happen. Nothing in the fancy stats, though, is so out of whack that a collapse is inevitable. Although you'd have to expect some return to normalcy, the smart money right now is on a good second half buoyed by another 10+ homers. 

How long will Ryan's bounce back last? 
Ryan Zimmerman got hurt and returned to hit so terribly, that Nats fans felt he may be better served getting back on the DL.  Instead Ryan opted for a cortisone shot and since then he's hitting .333 / .394 / .683.  He's also been one of the unluckier Nats (.270 BABIP), so it's not out of the question that this super hot run lasts a long time through a combination of luck and feeling better.  Then again, this is injury based and perhaps you can shoot up for only so long before the pain knocks Ryan back down. The Nats need Ryan's bat because until Bryce can do what he does for a whole year, Zimmerman is the elite bat for the team. 

Bryce Harper, good rookie or immediate impact player?
After an initial adjustment period it looked like Bryce was going to own this league from the get-go. But just when Nats fans were starting to crow "You really think Mike Trout is better than Bryce Harper?" Bryce crashed hard at the end of June.  July has been slightly better but the power hasn't returned yet.  As the season plays out and Bryce plays longer than he ever has against the best possible competition, you have to wonder what level of play will come from him this season.  He's good enough you don't expect him to be bad, but the Nats need impact bats. 

Will Mike Morse ever get back to Beast Mode?
During a hot stretch Mike upped his average from .217 to .299 and Nats fans who were worrying about him took their eyes off Mike for other things.  But Mike's still not the same guy as he was before.  His power, which had been great in 2010 and 2011 (isoSLG  .230+) is much lower in 2012 (.141)  Worse yet his BABIP is high (.343) which suggests that average is going down, not up. Optimists will point out that Mike started slowly last year too, but he's 30 year old with <2 years of success coming off an injury.  We really don't know what to think. 

Can the Nats elite pitchers keep up the homer gap?
Last year Gio gave up 17 homers in a spacious park.  Last year Tyler Clippard gave up 11 home runs. These are typical numbers for these two.  This year so far Gio has given up 4 and Tyler 0.  Their HR/FB numbers are crazy low. Neither is going to suddenly be terrible but it would be pretty remarkable for them to keep up this pace and if they don't that means a few more runs here and there, but more importantly some kinks in the armor of what is now an impenetrable staff. 

What kind of 5th starter will Detwiler be? 
The Nats depth at the back of the rotation has taken a hit.  Wang has looked terrible and has been demoted to AA to work out his kinks. No Nats fans wants to see him back.  Lannan has been unimpressive in AAA, and frankly, Rizzo has always seemed to me to be the type of macho ass that carries a grudge so I don't expect to see Lannan unless there is no other option. That means it's Detwiler's spot to lose.  After an initial hot start, Detwiler pitched rather badly to lose the spot to Wang in the first place.  After a nice start in his first one back, he's had back to back unimpressive games. (though one of those might be Davey's fault more than Ross's) I really think those great performances weren't his true level but Ross doesn't need to be great.  He just needs to give the Nats a chance to win.  

Can the "other guys" in the pen keep stranding runners? 
Thanks to some terrible performanaces by the last guys in the pen (Wang, Perry, Lidge) the Nats pen doesn't seem all that special keeping runners from scoring but Burnett, Stammen, Mattheus and Gonzalez all have higher numbers than you expect.  It's something that can easily be kept up for a season, given how few innings these guys pitch, but it could also come crashing back down very quickly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Worst Case Scenario

The Nats are playoff bound, right? Can we all agree that's the most likely scenario from where the Nats are right now?  This is a team who's pitching has carried them to a record 15 games over .500 for the first "half" of the year. Even if you believe they got lucky, and their pitching can't stay this hot, and Jayson Werth is a pox on their house and will destroy the team from the inside out, how bad a team would that actually make them? 10 games over?  5 games over?

We go over this alot because it's fun to do. The commenters went over it in the last post. If they Nats simply go .500 the rest of the year - they will have a good shot at making the playoffs. Two or three games over .500? That's 88-90 wins. That's almost a lock, historically.

If the Nats play the last 79 games at a significantly worse pace than the first 83 they will still make the playoffs.

No, in order to miss the playoffs it can't just be some regression to means, or a piece of bad luck here or there.  It would take some combination of bad events to would bring this team under .500 for the 2nd half. Could it happen? I doubt it, but since each win makes the "what if they don't make it" more and more unlikely, we might as well get it out of our systems now. Here's how I see the Nats missing the playoffs.

Starting pitching
Strasburg, Gio, or ZNN go down with an injury early and Edwin Jackson loses steam. 

A starter injury is unlike any other injury because you are replacing the injured not with the next best guy but the 6th best guy. The drop off is going to be huge. The reason Lannan wasn't traded for a bag of balls was because the Nats don't have much depth at starting pitching. He takes over and does what Lannan does, which is fine but it's not what any of those three do. Any pitcher could pitch worse but given his history Edwin is the most likely to flame out (not likely, just the most likely out of these guys). That would leave the Nats with a rather typical staff of two great pitchers, one decent 3rd and a 4th and a 5th that are ok.  It's not a bad staff, probably still just better than average, but this team was carried by a dominating staff.

Relief pitching
The back of the pen has an extended bad stretch.

Guys go through bad stretches.  It happens. But because relief pitchers pitch so few innings though, you can manage to get through a season without seeing a significant one. That's what's happened so far. On the flip side you can have good pitchers look bad for a month. (See Sean Burnett early last year).  If the Nats have the misfortune of having a couple guys hit bad months in the 2nd half obviously the pen will suffer. I have trouble thinking it gets worse than good, given the amount of talented arms, but if say Clippard and Burnett both go cold at the same time that could cost the Nats a few games as they re-align the pen.

OK so the pitching takes a bunch of hits... and it's still ok. I can't see this becoming a bad staff barring a major injury run of 4 arms or so.  But with the pitching only slightly above average the hitting needs to pick up its game.  It had looked like it's heading toward average and that itself might be enough even if the above happens so we need another thing to go against the Nats.

Nothing goes right. Espinosa and the catcher spot remain holes. Desmond cools down. None of Morse, Zimm, LaRoche, or Bryce step up. Werth is more like last year than early this year.

Nothing in particular about the above is particularly crazy to think could happen. Hell, I'd say there are good reasons to bet on each individual performance to go that way (except maybe Werth), but the thing is they shouldn't ALL go this way. When you are talking about a mix of 8 players some should perform better, some as expected, some worse.  Maybe Danny gets hot, maybe Ian is truly the next slugging star, maybe Morse hits like last year.  Something good should happen for the Nats. In the above no one is performing better. Nothing is going right.

This isn't an impossibility, like saying "everybody had terrible second halfs" would be.  That "everything goes wrong" is something that just can't happen over the course of 80 games. 20 maybe, but not 80.  But the "nothing goes right" isn't as strong a statement because it includes players putting up numbers that are fair to expect. Look at the pitching staff. Almost nothing went wrong in the first half *

Front Office
No deals are made to help out

Even if all the above happens there are names of guys out there that could help out in the scenarios above.  Greinke or Garza,  maybe Upton could inject some life into the offense if it remains down. But the front office is reluctant to deal because any big one would leave the minors pretty bare. So Rizzo sits and does nothing, damns the team's second half luck and waits to 2013 just as he had been doing before the season.

So now you have a good but not great pitching staff, and a offense that remains below average. That combinations puts the team as a below .500 team. Not terrible mind you but say 37-42 the rest of the year and that's enough to keep them out of the playoffs.  All it takes is the pitching staff to suffer a major injury, key guys underperforming in the bullpen, nothing to go right for the offense, and no help coming from the front office. Like I said, we shouldn't have much more time to come up with plausible playoff miss scenarios so enjoy this one pessimists.

*Looking back I did say "everything went right" with the pitching staff. That's an overstatement. I mean it did go right, but only because Strasburg, ZNN, Clippard pitching as expected is good enough to be thought of as "right".  But everyone isn't outperforming expectations.  "Nothing went wrong" is a better way of putting it.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Monday Quickie

Back!  What'd I miss?

So I went away and while I was gone the Nats took on one of the hottest and one of the coldest teams in the majors. San Fran was 18-9 coming into the Nats series and had won 7 of their last 10. The Nats promptly swept them.  It didn't even seem that close to me, the Cain game being the only one the Nats went into the late innings with a chance of losing.  Colorado had gone 9-22 coming into the Nats series, which included a pasting by the Nats at home and had gone 1-5 in their last 6.  The Nats lost 2 of 3 to the Rockies. It kind of felt, too, like they were one bad inning away from maybe sweeping the Nats.

Such is sports. The Nats wanted those Colorado games as much as the San Fran games, but they lost anyway to a much inferior team. This is why it's all about getting to the playoffs.  Get in and see what happens because anything can and often does.

The story of the first half is still the same though, awesome pitching overcoming some mediocre hitting. 

Here's an easy way of breaking down how great the Nats pitching has been. 

Better than Expected (*career year)
Gio Gonzalez*
Edwin Jackson*
Craig Stammen*
Sean Burnett
Ryan Mattheus*

As Expected
Jordan Zimmermann
Stephen Strasburg
Ross Detilwer
Tyler Clippard
Henry Rodriguez
Tom Gorzelanny
Mike Gonzalez
Ryan Perry

Worse than Expected
Chein-Ming Wang
Brad Lidge

Thirteen out of the fifteen guys who have pitched for the Nats this year have seasons at least as good as expected (hey - what did you expect from Perry?).  The only ones who have failed were a possible 5th starter and a should have been middle-inning reliever. Almost a third of the staff (you could argue Burnett's case as well) are having career years.

Is it luck? Is it talent? Is it timing? Yes. Yes. Yes. Rizzo has put together a staff that is both young and full of talent. It was primed to be a very good staff. The fact that they've gotten a bit lucky and nearly everything has worked out* when really everything doesn't always work out has made it special. And really in my mind the only uncontrollable thing that went wrong was Wang. Lidge should have not gotten big innings, certainly not right off the bat.  H-Rod is too up and down to be trusted over and over with important innings, which the closer will get, if not every time. Davey doesn't screw these things up and the Nats staff is almost flawless. It's incredible.

Baseball has enough seasons and teams that saying "this doesn't happen" is impossible. But I guarantee this, that everything goes right with a pitching staff, rarely happens.  

  • Ian Desmond's 17 homers is only 2 less than all other NL East SS's combined. 
  • I know that the SF series probably got some people excited but that's what happens when you have 5 or 6 guys hot at the same time. You score runs.  Thing is you don't usually have 5-6 guys hot at the same time.  A couple guys cool off and ta-da! you get the Rockies series.  Nothing about this team has changed. It still could use another bat.
*Yes Storen got injured but as I keep saying and as Clippard should have helped prove, good relievers are almost interchangeable. How many of the Top 11 guys in saves this year had 10 or more saves last year?  Four.  That's right FOUR.  And one of those is Heath Bell who's been pretty bad despite having 19 saves.  This is how it's like every year. I don't know how many practical examples of this non-believers need to see.  H-Rod didn't fail because it was too much pressure.  He failed because the way he pitches one out of every three times out is going to be an adventure.  Lidge didn't fail because he can't be a closer. He failed because he is old and no good anymore.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tuesday Travel Day

For me at least.

The Nats have 6 games till the All-Star break. For the first time in what feels like forever I think they stumbled into some bad luck with pitchers they are going to face.  They get arguably the Giants two best pitchers (Cain and Bumgarner, but if you love Vogelsong feel free to yell at me) and they should get the only two guys on the Rockies staff who can pitch (Francis and Pomeranz).  In the Giants series Cain and Bumgarner match up with Jackson and Detwiler so they have an edge here. The Nats should hope to take the first game (where Lincecum pitches vs ZNN.  Lincecum has been better recently but that's only better than terrible, and he's been real spotty on the road) and split the last two.  I'd give the Rockies more of a chance but Pomeranz matches with Strasburg followed by some jabroni vs Gio. Maybe they squeak out a win in the final game (likely to be Francis vs ZNN) but maybe not.

I think 4-2 is as low as you go for these 6, with 5-1 being far more likely than 3-3, despite how hot the Giants are.  If the Nats are who they think they are, like maybe the team to beat in the NL, then they win at home versus everyone else. That's just the way it goes.

Quick Argument for Desmond

I was going to spend a bit more time on this but I think you can make a pretty good argument for Ian Desmond. Not for the AS game appearance.  That argument doesn't have to be made, he's a legit choice. I mean for real improvement.  I don't make this argument yet because I'm rather patient (or stubborn if you prefer) in changing my view, but it's there.

Desmond never really impressed in the minors until 2009, but he was constantly getting moved up and was generally young for his league. When he got to the majors a fast start raised expectations for him and he didn't deliver. The problem is, as a streaky hitter he'd have two bad, like awful, months for every good one. In 2010, he hit .347 / .385 / .465 in August but .222 / .259 / .309 in June and .239 / .288 / .330 in September. In 2011 he hit  .302 / .331 / .448 in September but .218 / .255 / .287 in May and .217 / .255 / .228 in June.  Since Ian doesn't walk when his average drops he needs to hit for power to still be useful.  In the past he hasn't. His slugging died with his average creating a "shouldn't play" situation. In April of this year though things changed, .250 BA, .286 OBP, but that SLG? .370.  It's not a good month, but it's not a black hole. His worst stretch during this time was a 11 game set where he hit .136. His SLG?  .250.  Ok, ok that's terrible but everyone has bad 11 game stretches.  The difference is that this year's Ian slugged .250 whereas previous Ian might have slugged under < .200.

He just had two of the best 4 months in his career and easily his best 2-month stretch. In his last 4 months (including September of last year) his isoSLG has been .146 (average), .120 (below average, but decent for a SS), .234 (great), .253 (great).  It's seeming more and more that the power seen in spurts in 2008 and 2010 is sticking, elevated in his hot months, depressed in his bad ones, but never disappearing. 

There's still time for that death knell of a month to come along a ruin everything, but I can see the thinking that it won't. Even if he hits .220 the days of 2XBHs at the same time could very well be over. That's the difference between Ian being legitimately good and Ian playing just because you can't find anyone better. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

Monday Quickie

So the "fun part" is over.  The Nats played through interleauge, through NL East rivals, and through weather that nearly killed Steven Strasburg, and in the end the went 22-17 (Anonymous commenter had them at 22-18, so he wins the Marvel No-Prize.  Excelsior, Anonymous!).  My own personal prediction was 19-21, and while I had the Nats just a game better to start and just a game worse to finish, the sweeps of Boston and Toronto basically killed the AL East part of the prediction.  Even though they finished up getting swept by the Yanks and beaten by Baltimore 6-9 became 9-6.  There's the difference right there (I should have known the Red Sox would come back to screw me. Nothing good comes from the Red Sox)

If you are the ultimate pessimist and find yourself looking for reasons to be unhappy, maybe you want to discount sweeps as luck (kind of silly if you ask me). Well if you do that you'd have to discount the Yankees sweep as well. Even throwing out all those games that's still not enough to pull the Nats under .500 for this time frame.

What does it all mean? I would say this : "The Nats pitching is too good for them to lose.  They have to be the favorites to take the NL East. The questions now should revolve mostly aroundgetting playoff ready"

Way ahead of myself? The Phillies, after getting swept by a division rival, are wisely moving to seller mode. There is just too much that has to go right for them to get back in it.  The Marlins, they still have a shot but one more big losing streak and that's it for them as well.  This HAS to be the start of their push and frankly I don't see it. The Braves are managed by Fredi Gonzalez who on Friday said "Well he's warmed up anyway, let's put Chad Durbin in in a 4-4 game, even though I really wanted him to pitch in a game we were down 4 runs in. What's the worst that could happen"? In other words Fredi doesn't know how to prioritize games and the Braves are likely to lose a handful more to the likes of the Mets and Reds, so Fredi can get a few more wins vs the Astros and Rockies. That could very well cost that team the playoffs. This all leaves the Mets who aren't as much smoke and mirrors now as they were in the beginning of the year, but it's a team with a bad pen that feels like a jenga puzzle - about to fall over if they get one wrong piece of luck. I can't find a team to worry about in this division.


Everybody loved Colorado and if you look at the past week only Bryce and Danny have OPS's under 1.000.

Speaking of Colorado - along with the fans major idiocy (for voting in Furcal), Desmond can thank Coors field for getting him in.  He was 8-15 with 5 doubles and 2 homers right at a point where LaRussa would have been thinking "Ok who do I take to the game". You could argue Lowrie was more deserving* but Desmond shone when the right eyes were watching.

Since almost everyone killed in Coors, I'm gonna wait to say anyone is back but a few choice stats.  Morse would go in hitting .215 and come out hit .265 (a 4-4 in ATL would bring it up to .296) Ryan Zimmerman had 5 XBH in the series - you'd have to go back a full month to get 5XBHs for Ryan Zimmerman.  Not in a series, like in those ~30 games.

Speaking of Mike Morse his walk yesterday was his first in 20 games.  Any pitcher that throws him a strike deserves to get it crushed.

Pitching had some rough spots but it was as much Davey's fault as them. He wanted Detwiler to get that last out and forced him to go a few batters too long.  Normally I'd be ok with Gio getting to face Freeman, but in that heat and as gassed as he looked I think pulling him was the right move. (easy to say now of course) Really the only worry is how long until they DFA Wang because he is not suited for relief and it shows.

*I think so. Lowrie main fault was not getting as many at bats as Desmond. But it's not like picking Ian over Jed is crazy.  I can see both arguments