Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Adam Dunn on his way out?

MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Chicago White Sox are interested in trading for Adam Dunn to help jump start their terrible offense (the one that swept the Nats just over a week ago).

Well, according to Adam Kilgore at the Washington Post, there was a White Sox scout at the Nats/Braves game on Tuesday. Read into that what you will. In the game, Dunn went 0 for 5, with 3 strikeouts. Ouch. Now, I'm certainly not speculating that he blew his performance because the scout was there. However, Dunn is a smart guy, and I'm sure he knew that a scout was in the crowd. Maybe it was nerves because of that. Who knows? But one thing is for sure, Adam Dunn does not want to leave DC. He definitely doesn't want to leave DC to become a DH somewhere in the American League. He likes fielding, and he is getting better at it.

As someone who watches the Nats day in and day out, I acknowledge that the team is going to be dealing, not getting, star players this season. They're not good enough to contend, yet. But I, along with many people that I've spoken to, have become attached to the idea of Adam Dunn as a Washington National. I love seeing him play for the team, and I would like to see him stay with the club for several more years. Without him, Zimmerman has no power protection, and the Nats simply have no raw power on the team.

That said, realistically, Dunn's trade value is high right now and may be dealt before the July 31st deadline. One thing is for sure. If the Nats trade him, they better get someone good. If it's to the White Sox, it needs to be a front line starter. Mark Buehrle, perhaps? I know, I'm dreaming. Gavin Floyd AND another player? Maybe. 3 AA prospects? No longer going to cut it! Adam Dunn is one of the few quality power hitters in baseball today, and giving him up for prospects is an insult to him and to Nats fans that hope for a competing team in the reasonably near future.

Remember, stars usually aren't dying to sign contract extensions with a mediocre ball club like the Nats. This could be an opportunity that the Nats can take advantage of the situation. If they don't, they need to get something good that will produce today for the team. Not in 2, 3, 4, or more, years.... At some point, it's not going to be about building young guys, it's got to be about landing guys that are good NOW to push the team over the edge.

Stammen Dominates and Nats Get Some Confidence

Going into Tuesday's game against the NL East leading Braves, the Nats had lost 13 of their last 16 games. In that stretch they were swept by the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and the worst team in all of baseball, the Baltimore Orioles. The Nats became unwatchable. Well on Tuesday, their fates seem to change.

The Nats committed zero errors for only the 2nd time in the last 6 days and scored the most runs (7) that they've scored in more than two weeks. The Nats confidence was shot, and everyone hopes that this one win against the best team in their division will help get the train moving in the right direction.

The big story of the day was Craig Stammen's return to the MLB roster. Stammen was sent down on June 7th to AAA Syracuse to make room for Stephen Strasburg's promotion. In his last start in the majors, Stammen made a strong case to delay his demotion, pitching 6 2/3 innings of 1 run ball. But he was inexplicably pulled after throwing only 66 pitches. The Nats ultimately lost that game in 10 innings after Matt Capps blew a save. But the club's mind was made up. Stammen would be sent down... instead of J.D. Martin... for reasons passing understanding.

In Syracuse, Stammen put together a 2-0 record with a 2.25 ERA. Opposing hitters had a mere .237 average against him. In his June 18th outing against Gwinnett, he took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. It was enough to earn him a spot back on the DC roster when John Lannan had his breakdown and was sent to AA Harrisburg to figure himself out.

On Tuesday, Stammen didn't disappoint in his return to the majors. Stammen improved to 2-2 after throwing 7 1/3 innings of 5 hit, 2 run baseball. He recorded 15 ground ball outs and had his sinker working well enough to generate 4 strikeouts.

After Monday's abysmal error by Ian Desmond, he was on the bench in favor of Alberto Gonzalez on Tuesday. That made for AG's 3rd consecutive start, this time at shortstop. Alberto didn't disappoint. He went 4 for 4 with a run and an RBI. This probably makes the case for AG to stay in the line up for at least another day, although I suspect that Desmond will return to the lineup today. Riggleman isn't known for punishing his starters for more than one game this year. Gonzalez will probably (hopefully) see time at 2nd base.

So the Nats have broken the losing streak with a starting pitcher that wasn't named Strasburg. Zimmerman even got a hit that generated 2 RBI, and Nyjer Morgan bounced back with a 2 for 5 game. Maybe this is what will turn the skid around for the Nats. Only Wednesday's game will tell.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tyler Clippard's Struggles & Nats Swept by MLB Worst Orioles

Tyler Clippard is still the Nationals wins leader with 8. He's still their strikeouts leader with 56. He's still in the top 10 in the NL in wins. He's 3rd in the NL in holds, an ideal spot for your setup man.

It's hard to be overly critical of a guy who has been as consistent and efficient as Clippard. In the 8 appearances prior to the series with the Orioles, he gave up just 8 hits and 1 run. He also notched 5 holds, a win, and his first career save.

But in Baltimore, Tyler Clippard didn't look like himself. His rising fastball wasn't rising. His vicious change up wasn't changing up. His slider wasn't sliding. In 2 appearances in Oriole Park, Clippard gave up 7 hits, only one shy of what he gave up in the previous 8 games. He also gave up 4 earned runs, quadruple the number that he gave up in the previous 8 appearances.

I bring this up only because it perfectly encapsulates the quality of baseball that Washington is playing in June, where even our best and most consistent players this season continue to struggle.

What didn't help Clippard, or any of the other pitchers this weekend, was the number of errors committed by the Nationals defense. In a 3 game series with Baltimore, the defense committed 5 errors, with 4 of them coming on Friday's remarkably depressing 7-6 loss. The Nats had a 6-0 lead in that game. Just to remind you, in case you've forgotten, they also blew a 5-0 lead on Saturday and a 3-0 lead on Sunday.

The Nationals were swept by the worst team in baseball. A team that, before the Nats came into town, had just gotten its 20th win on the season, just fired its manager, and had one of its stars asking for a trade before publicly apologizing to Satan... er... Peter Angelos.

The Nats seem to be cursed this month, so July can't come soon enough. Maybe that's what it will take to get out of the slump. Or, maybe it's Stephen Strasburg's start tonight against the NL East best Atlanta Braves. Who knows, but for the Nats, it needs to happen.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Morgan Has Career Game, but Nats Flounder in Frustrating Fashion

(Picture Captured from MASN-HD)

Nyjer Morgan had one of the best games of his career on Friday night in Baltimore in game one of the Battle of the Beltways. Morgan went 4 for 5, with 3 runs and an RBI. He reached base safely in his first 4 at bats. Nyjer was agressive and was just reading every Orioles pitcher as perfectly as you possibly could.

He was also lighting it up in the field, with one of the most amazing catches that I have ever seen, pictured above. T. Plush reached a ball that was easily 4 feet over the center field wall, which would have been a home run for Corey Patterson. After the remarkable catch, Patterson tipped his cap in recognition of the catch as a fellow center fielder. Nats starting pitcher J.D. Martin Miguel Tejada was less grateful when Nyjer stole extra bases from him a few innings later with a running catch.

The Nats were up 6-0 in the 5th and looked to be the dominant team. J.D. Martin pitched a decent game, one that was good enough to earn him a win, even if it was only 4 1/3 innings. And then, for reasons passing understanding, Jim Riggleman decided to use 6 of the 8 guys in the bullpen. Maybe just because he could? But after several great innings from the 'pen, Tyler Clippard came in and gave up 4 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in 1 1/3 innings in the 8th and 9th innings. Matt Capps came in to try to just keep the Nats in it with 2 runners on base and gave up an inherited run to his first batter in the bottom of the 9th for a walk off, earning Tyler Clippard his 4th loss on the season.

That's right folks. The Washington Nationals, after the remarkable start to the game, blew a 6-0 lead to lose to the worst team in all of baseball.

At the end, batters were over-swinging. They were frustrated. Maybe with themselves, maybe with the pitching disaster by Clippard. There is no excuse for giving up a 6 run lead to the team with the worst record in baseball and the 2nd worst RBI count. But Clippard did just that, and the Nats lost another game that should have been an easy win.

At this point in the season, you have to wonder, where has the confidence gone? Where is the swagger of this once passably decent ball club? If you find it, call Jim Riggleman. He needs your help.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strasburg and Nats Go for the Kill

After a shockingly bad month of baseball, the Nats have taken 2 of 3 from the Kansas City Royals and will go for the sweep this afternoon with Stephen Strasburg on the mount. The Nats bats came alive last night, with Josh Willingham hitting his 100th career home run and Adam Dunn crushing his 17th on the season.

The team is still unable to get those home runs with runners on base, but they did tally 11 hits on the game on Tuesday. Stephen Strasburg, the rookie with 3 starts, 3 MLB records, and extensive talk about making the All-Star team will face the Royals RHP Brian Bannister who is 6-5, but has a very high 5.70 ERA and only 47 Ks in 14 games. Strasburg (2-0), in case you haven't been obsessively following like the rest of the baseball world, has a 1.86 ERA and 32 strike outs. Again, that's in only 3 starts.

Strasburg looks to continue his dominance today and, for the first time in a while, not be the stopper for a losing streak. Lineups will be out in the next few hours, and with a day game after a night game, you hope to not see a lot of bench players starting.

For now, I go back to having the shakes in minute 76 of the USA World Cup game...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nats Try to Salvage Season against Royals

On Monday, the Nationals took a big step in the right direction. First, by breaking a 6 game losing streak. Second, by scoring enough runs... 2... to land a starter a win whose name isn't Stephen Strasburg. The last time the Nats got a win that wasn't started by Strasburg was 10 days ago from Livan Hernandez.

To take it a bit further: The last Washington Nationals starter to get a win that isn't named Strasburg or Hernandez was on May 31st. 20 games ago. That was Luis Atilano. Unfortunately, this has become the problem with starting pitchers over the last month or so. The Nats simply can't score enough runs to win, even when their starters give them a quality outing.

Well, Monday night the 2 runs were enough to take out the abysmal Royals. Although the Royals are 17-19 in their last 36. I don't think we even want to discuss what the Nats record is over that time frame. (The answer is 12-24... yea... ouch.)

The Nats look for a sweep of this series to get their derailed season back on track. Not on track for the wild card, or the division, but for respectability. They'll have to do so on Tuesday on the remarkable 5-4 record of Luis Atilano and hits unsavory 4.77 ERA. The Nats will face Royals RHP Anthony Lerew for the win. Lerew has only 15 games of MLB experience since 2005, and it will be only his 2nd start on the year. If there is a day for the Nats bats to wake up, it must be Tuesday against this greenhorn starter.

The Nats have a 4:35 pm start from Strasburg on Wednesday, and hopefully that can end this series with a 3 game winning streak to take the trip to Baltimore for a 3 game series against the MLB worse Orioles (19-50). Last year on this date, the Nationals were 21-47, so yes, the Orioles are on pace to be worse than the Nats were last year. Take THAT Peter Angelos... Oh, what's that? You're making money on the Nationals success this year? Damn.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lannan Heads North; Detwiler Ready?; Zimmermann Ahead of Schedule

John Lannan's season wasn't quite what everyone expectedfrom the guy who was the Opening Day starter in 2010. No one expected a 10-0 start and a 0.73 ERA, but they expected a stable start every 5 days. In the end, Lannan went through some sort of elbow issues in the first half of the season, but all in all, he just was unable to locate his pitches. He simply couldn't get it done. It's something you just hate to see from a guy like Lannan, who showed lots of promise both on and off the field.

Unfortunately, Lannan's 2-5 record and 5.76 ERA just wasn't enough, and he was demoted to AA Harrisburg today. A move that 2 weeks ago, I would have told you would never ever happen. But failing to make it 5 innings in 2 consecutive starts and sporting almost a 6.00 ERA wouldn't have saved anyone in baseball halfway through the season. Joining the Nats will be RHP Joel Peralta, who has been a reliever for his entire career in Kansas City, Anaheim, and Colorado.

One last thing to encourage Nats fans, though, is that LHP Ross Detwiler has been taken from the 60-Day DL and is now in the rotation down in Harrisburg. With Peralta's promotion, that leaves the Nationals with two options as I can see it for the rotation.
  1. Go with a 4 man rotation for a little while. They have a day off on Thursday, so it's possible.
  2. Pull Miguel Batista from the bullpen and give him a spot start or two until you figure out who the 5th man is.
More than likely, option 1 is the answer in this situation. Detwiler's addition to the Harrisburg rotation probably means he'll be ready for the big soon, and after another start or two down there, he will probably join the rotation in DC. With Lannan in the minors, it'll be replacing a lefty with a lefty. Now is the time to see if Detwiler is the real deal, as he was the 6th overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft.

I was surprised that Peralta was promoted, considering Manager Jim Riggleman said this past week that Craig Stammen had a shot at making the bullpen in DC. But it wasn't to be, yet at least. There are still many huge decision to be made in DC over the next few weeks with one big pitcher coming off of the DL and 3 big starters (Wang, Zimmermann, Marquis) schedule to come off before the season ends.

Detwiler will be ready very soon, and so will Jordan Zimmermann. The question with Zimmermann will be whether he comes out of the bullpen or if he joins the rotation, and when. Even by Mike Rizzo's account, J. Zimm is way ahead of schedule, and by all accounts he will NOT be rushed back. It is encouraging, though that Zimmermann was in uniform throughout the weekend series with the White Sox and threw a simulated game of 35 pitches on Friday before the game. Maybe the organization knows something we don't.

The games haven't been very exciting lately, but one thing is for sure. The promotions and demotions will be fast and furious over the next few months, and with only about 40 days until the trade deadline, the Nationals front office may be more interesting to watch than the team over the next few weeks. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The One Week Anniversary

One week ago today, Adam Dunn destroyed Carlos Santana when coming home to score. I watched it so much, I thought it deserved an anniversary post. Enjoy!


(Video Courtesy: MASN/DC50)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nats Drop Another: Season on Life Support

The Washington Nationals lost another game on Thursday afternoon; they were swept by the Detroit Tigers in a 8-3 loss. Nats fans all around were excited for the promise of this season early. Strasburg was going to come up at some point, the team was 5 games above .500 a month into the season, they were competing with every team.

Then, all of a sudden, the offense stopped scoring. The pitching stopped getting outs (with a 2 game Strasburg exception). The defense's errors skyrocketed. The fun atmosphere in the clubhouse seemed to decrease, which have a tendency to happen when you start losing. But it begs the question... what happened to the Nats from April and May?

Starting with the good, the Nats as a team have the 2nd most saves in all of baseball with 22. This is a more important stat than people realize, because it means when our closers get the lead, they keep it most of the time. Unfortunately, the closers aren't getting the lead too much.

The Nats bats haven't been doing it lately. To be clear, they're not bad. They're just not good, either: 13th overall in batting average, 15th in home runs, 18th in RBI, 16th in hits. A strong showing of mediocrity. I posted earlier about the Nats struggles to score runs, and they're on a skid now with the same problem. Although Adam Dunn is certainly doing his part. He's hitting .288 with 16 home runs (2nd in the NL). He's hit homers in 6 of his last 9 games.

The pitching is what you'd expect from out rotation as well, and using a 2-game old rookie as your "stopper" for losing streaks isn't going to cut it for long. Strasburg can't do it all, as much as we all would like to believe he's the Baseball Messiah of the 21st Century. The Nats are 18th in ERA, 21st in WHIP, and 29th (ouch) in strikeouts.

So I think what it comes down to is: the Nats aren't very good, but they're not terrible, and that's what we're seeing in their 31-36 record. They'll certainly move closer to .500 again this year, and then they'll fluctuate back down. But one thing is for sure. As disappointing as their performance has been this month, they're record puts them at 21st out of 30 teams in the MLB. A far cry from where they were last year at this point in the year (dead last, in case you've forgotten that pain). And they'd have to have an historic losing streak in order to get back to where they were last season.

There is hope for Nats fans, in the long run. This is a marked improvement over the last two seasons 205 losses. As I predicted, the Nats have just come down to earth, and it is so hard to watch now because they were playing so well. It's hard when you're frustrated to feel good about this year, but just remember where they were just one year ago.

The future of Washington's rotation, SS, is pitching tomorrow against Gavin Floyd to try to be the stopper yet again in only his 3rd MLB start. The Nats are expecting another great crowd, so stay tuned to see if Strasburg can stay relatively perfect this year. Eventually, he's got to blow one, right? Right? I hope not...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh my Boesch: Nats continue their losing skid

Detroit Tigers left fielder Brennan Boesch was a nightmare on Wednesday for the Nationals. He went 3 for 4 with a home run and 4 RBI. Since Boesch was called up from their AAA affiliate in Toledo on April 24th, he has been incredible. He's hit .344 with 9 home runs and 34 RBI.

Livan Hernandez was a different story. Livan almost got yanked in the 2nd inning with no outs. He walked 3 runners in the 2nd inning, one with the bases loaded. He seemed to be fighting control issues throughout the whole game. His delivery looked choppy and forced. When all was said and done, Livan made it 6 2/3 innings, giving up 8 runs on only 7 hits. That's not a typo; he walked 6 Tigers. That is not Livo's game.

The Nats offense did what it has done so often this season: scored early runs. Dunn got a home run off of Verlander in the first, Bernadina in the 2nd. But the team would score only one more run in the 6th off of a Pudge RBI. The Nats lost 8-3. The Nationals pitching, besides a 21 year old kid, has been uninspired. In June, the starting pitchers ERA is above 4.00. Without Strasburg, it's worse.

It seems like since Strasburg came up and the Nats left DC (and the Pittsburgh Pirates as an opponent), the pitching rotation has disintegrated. Jim Riggleman has changed the starting line up almost impulsively. The last time the Nats fielded the same 8 guys back to back was June 5th and 6th; or 11 days ago. Not exactly the consistent lineup you hope for.

Instead, the Nats have lost 20 of their last 31 games, and have spiraled to 4 games below the .500 mark (31-35). The solid pitching from the early part of the season is gone, the offense is stagnating, and the "regular starters" are getting no consistency. Players certainly need time off, but spot starting a guy like Michael Morse (who is batting .424 in 33 ABs) just doesn't make any sense. Especially when you start Willie Harris instead (who is now batting .158 after going 0 for 3 on Wednesday).

Riggleman has a tough job, and it's easy to forget while watching frustrating games. He has rarely had a lead late into the games, and he's had to go to the bullpen early. But the Nats need to do something, and they need to do it badly.

I propose a move in the outfield to put Bernadina in center and Morse in right once the team returns to DC. You just have to find a way to get Morse in the lineup. The team looks to avoid a sweep on Thursday with Luis Atilano on the mound before Strasburg goes for the Nats on Friday against Mark Buehrle. The Nats absolutely need the win on Thursday to avoid a dreadful 1-5 road trip. We'll see what Riggs does to get this team moving again. Until later...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reform All-Star Voting

This is clearly the best year for the Washington Nationals since 2005.  I don't think anyone would debate that.  It's not even close.  Pudge Rodriguez is having a great year for a 38 year old catcher who was supposed to be "past his prime."  Adam Dunn has come on hot in the 2nd quarter of the season.  He's hitting .289 with an outstanding .383 OBP, 14 home runs, and 35 RBI.  But none of these guys stack up to the year that Ryan Zimmerman is having.

Zimmerman, coming off his first All-Star Game appearance in 2009, won the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger for NL 3rd basemen in 2009 as well.  This year is no different.  Zimm is hitting .306, with an OBP of .400, and an OPS of .977.  For those of you who are keeping track, his average is 3rd, and his on base and OPS percentages are best among NL 3rd basemen.  But where is Zimmerman ranked in All-Star voting?  Nowhere to be seen.  He doesn't rank in the top 5 at all.  This is the travesty of small-market teams.

In the outfield, Josh Willingham isn't in the top 15 for NL outfielders.  Meanwhile, he has the best on base percentage among every outfielder in baseball.  Let me say that again.  Washington Nationals left fielder is #1 in the NL in OBP, with an outrageously high .417 approaching the All-Star break.  He's also #4 in OPS.  He's nowhere to be found in All-Star balloting.  I'm not arguing that he should make the team as a starter, but I'd hope he'd at least register in balloting at all.

Adam Dunn's talent is incredible.  Unfortunately, the 1st base talent in the NL is nothing short of absurd.  He is cursed to be in a league with players like Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Troy Glaus in a resurgent year, and even Aubrey Huff playing in the bandbox that is AT&T Park.  He never had a shot.

The other real outrage, besides Zimmerman's struggles to get votes at 3rd base, is the shortstop race.  This is not the place where I argue that rookie Ian Desmond makes the All-Star Game.  No way.  He may eventually be that good, but not yet.  Not close.  He is DEAD last among fielding percentage among NL shortstops, with 15 (ouch) errors in 2010.

No, the real outrage is Jimmy Rollins.  Rollins is 2nd among all shortstops in the NL in voting, with almost a million votes.  He must be playing every day and putting up just sick numbers, right?  Actually... no... not so much. 

Jimmy Rollins has played 12 games this season.  Not a typo.  He's played in 12 games.  He didn't play one game from April 12 through May 17th, and then hasn't played a game since May 21st.  Jimmy Rollins is an outrageously talented player.  No doubt about it.  He's won the Gold Glove at shortstop 3 years running, and was the NL MVP in 2007.  Any team would be lucky to have him.

But give me a break here.  Jimmy Rollins has had 41 at-bats this year, compared to Troy Tulowitzki's 225 ABs and Hanley Ramirez's 235 ABs.  (As an aside, Ramirez is 1st in voting, Tulowitzki is 3rd.  These two should be reversed.  All of Tulo's numbers are better than Hanley, average, OBP, slugging, and OPS, and Hanley is a clubhouse cancer.)

It's time for Selig and the MLBPA to get together and fix this voting system.  Big market teams are getting a disproportionate amount of the vote, and it's hurting the real talent like Zimmerman and Tulowitzki.  Just because Phillies fans are more active in voting, doesn't mean they have the best players.  I mean Chase Utley, sure.  But Placido Polanco as the best 3rd basemen in the NL?  Really?  He's having a good year, but he's not in the top 5 in runs scored, or RBI, or home runs.  He's barely in the top 10.  It's time to reform the system, right now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Bats Get Hot, but Should Nats Fans Be Happy?

This season, the Nationals have scored 9 or more runs 3 times: May 13th (@ Colorado 14-6), May 31st (@ Houston 14-4), and yesterday, June 13th (@ Cleveland 9-4). Weird, by this pattern, we can expect to see another one on June 31st... wait... anyway....

After each of the 14 run games, the Nationals offense stagnated. As if there was a set number of runs a team can score in a week. After the Colorado game, the Nationals lost 7 of the next 8 games, scoring more than 3 runs only twice in that stretch. Same goes for the Astros blowout. The Nats lost 5 of their next 6, scoring more than 4 runs only once, and they lost that game 8-7.

Many teams are streaky with offense, and the Nats are obviously no exception. But the Nats are very, very streaky. The team, now 31-33, cannot afford to go on an extended losing streak at this point in the season. If the Nats lost say 5 of their next 6 again like they did after the Houston blowout, they would end up 6 games below .500, probably putting an insurmountable amount of distance between them and whoever was 1st in the NL East in that moment.

Washington has Monday off, but will head to Detroit on Tuesday to face a Tigers team with the 6th best batting average in all of baseball. The Nats will try to take them out with a combination of Lannan, Livo, and Atilano on the mound. I will try to preview Lannan's struggles and his matchup against Max Scherzer tomorrow when I start to discuss that game.

Until then, enjoy watching Adam Dunn bowl over Carlos Santana, over, and over, and over. I know I have.

The 2nd Coming of Jeezus: Game 64

Sunday afternoon, Stephen Strasburg had his 2nd start as a Washington National. Strasburg didn't quite look as dominating as in game 1, but none the less, his line was impressive. 5 1/3 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 8 strikeouts. One number vastly different than in game 1 was his walks. He gave up none on Tuesday against Pittsburgh. He gave up 5 on Sunday. He was having trouble with the mound, visibly slipping all over the place.

Perhaps the best moment of the day, though, is Adam Dunn's collision with rookie catcher Carlos Santana at home plate. Santana was blocking the plate with no throw coming in, and the 6' 7" former lineman made Carlos pay. The clip is below:


(Video Courtesy: MASN/DC50)

I will be back with you this afternoon with a story on the Nats streaky-ness after scoring lots and lots of runs. Check back around 1:30!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Questioning Riggleman's Lineup Card and Episode II: The Stras-pire Strikes Back

This weekend has been full of World Cup talk and game watching my house, like hundreds of millions of homes across the world. It's an exciting time every 4 years when June comes around, even for those that aren't huge soccer fans. It's very exciting to watch players compete for their countries in the most popular sport on earth. But I digress; back to America's Pastime.

Jim Riggleman came into the series against the Cleveland Indians hoping to capitalize on the Nationals sweep against the Pirates, the excitement over Stephen Strasburg, and the offensive weakness of the Indians.

Well, none of that has happened so far. The Nats have given up 7 runs in each of the first 2 games against the Indians. The pitching has been abysmal, and one former Nationals player that the team dismissed and ate his $8 million contract came back to bite them. Austin Kearns, yes, the Nats player that hit the Mendoza Line in 2009 and was injured for most of the last 2 years of his Nationals career is healthy in Cleveland, hitting .307. He hit 2 home runs against Atilano on Friday. Personally, I'm happy to see Austin healthy and successful.

However, Riggleman did give himself much offensive assistance with his Friday and Saturday lineups. Most questionable of all of those calls was Willy Harris as a DH on Saturday. The Nationals wanted to get Harris some consistent playing time to get his confidence up. However, the offensive expense was great. Harris is now hitting .163 and went 0 for 7 against Cleveland. He is not in the lineup today.

Meanwhile, Michael "Don't Call Me Mike" Morse is hitting .417 and was coming off of a 3 for 3 night against Pittsburgh to end that series with a sweep. To me, it defies logic how a team that is competitive in the NL East well into June can take the bat out of a kid's hands who is hitting over .400 to put it in someone's hand that is hitting well below .200 and is a liability with the bat. Making a lefty batter against a righty pitcher in favor of Harris is irrelevant as well. Harris is hitting just .165 against righties, while Morse is hitting .556; even better than he is against lefties.

Morse has taken it all in stride. He knows his role as a utility guy, and has embraced it. However, when you have a player that is as dominant as Morse is, I question Riggleman's managerial decisions putting Willie Harris in the game.

Today's lineup looks a little more like the Nats want to compete to win, but the Indians certainly are going for the sweep with theirs. Oh, and some good young kid is pitching for the Nats for his 2nd start. Maybe you've heard of him...

Nationals
1. Guzman, 2B
2. Nyjer, CF
3. Zim, DH
4. Adam Dunn, 1B
5. Hammer, LF
6. Pudge, C
7. Morse, RF
8. Ian Desmond, SS
9. The Attorney General (Gonzalez), 3B
SP: Stephen Strasburg

Indians
1. Trevor Crowe, CF
2. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
3. Carlos Santana, C
4. Travis Hafner, DH
5. Austin Kearns, LF
6. Russell Branyan, 1B
7. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
9. Luis Valbuena, 2B
9. Anderson Hernandez, SS
SP: David Huff

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Burn n' Clipp? A weird way to sweep.

The Washington Nationals secured their first sweep since they swept the Mets and Braves to end the 2009 season. Livan Hernandez (5-3) got the win in the 4-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night. The Nats are now only 1 game below .500 (30-31) and headed to see the 23-36 Cleveland Indians managed by former Nats skipper Manny Acta. The last game of the upcoming series will be yet another national broadcast, this time on TBS, for Stephen Strasburg's 2nd MLB start.

Last night's victory was an unconventional one in a few ways. Starting with the exciting: Adam Dunn homered for the 3rd consecutive game, bringing his average way up to .284 with 13 homers on the year. Willingham also went deep, with a .283 average and 12 homers. Talk about similar numbers.

The real stars of the game, though, were Michael "Don't Call Me Mike" Morse, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard. Morse went 3 for 3 with a walk and a home run to deep center in the 8th inning on Thursday, making his case to be added to the line up with the DH position opening for the next two series. No one on the bench is more worthy than him, although I imagine that he'll be at 1st base at least one game to put Dunn in the DH spot. He also won the Silver Wig.

Sean Burnett had an outstanding game, pitching the entire 7th and 8th innings. He gave up no runs on 2 hits, 1 K, and threw 20 of 35 pitches for strikes. LHP Burnett gave up a single to a righty (LaRoche) and a lefty (G. Jones), while he still struggles to get lefties out. Lefties have a .324 average against him, while righties are only hitting .163.

Capps was unavailable for the save last night after pitching for a save in the high-stress Strasburg debut and then again on Wednesday, so Tyler Clippard entered the game looking for his 1st career MLB save. In typical Clippard fashion, he blew hitters away with high heat, throwing up to 94 mph and earning that coveted 1st career save.

It's great to see that Riggleman was able to give 5 of the 7 guys in the bullpen a night off. It's rare to see a specialist like Burnett come in to pitch 2 very successful innings, but that's exactly what he did. The Nats certainly hope to continue relying on guys to step up in non-traditional roles while the team continues to play extremely close games. So far this year 37 of their 61 games have been decided by 2 runs or fewer.

Now, with starters going 6 or more innings fairly consistently, the bullpen is getting some rest and is becoming gradually more effective. If the Nats can go on a bit of a streak against the Indians, who have an abysmal 10-16 record at home, there's no telling what can happen in the tightest division in all of baseball. All teams in the NL East are within 5 1/2 games of 1st place. The next closest division in baseball, the AL West, isn't even close. It has 10 games separating its first and last place teams. As we approach the heart of the season, the NL East teams will certainly be very exciting to watch.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Day After Strasmas

As the events of June 8, 2010 become historic for most Nationals fans, I still find myself getting chills thinking about the crowd and the events of last night. For anyone that was there, this clip (via Nats Journal) will definitely give you chills.


It seems impossible that anything can top that night, but eventually the season must go on. That night will be tonight (weather pending).

John Lannan is the Nationals scheduled starter for tonight's game. The starter for the Pirates is a kid named Brad Lincoln. Who is Brad Lincoln you may ask? He's Pittsburgh's top pitching prospect. Although nowhere near the anticipated talent of Strasburg. Talk about a weekend of prospects in DC after Harper and Strasburg.

Lincoln was drafted by the Bucs as the #4 overall pick in the 2006 draft out of the University of Houston. He looked to be on the Strasburg fast track to the bigs, but it was marred by an oblique strain in 2006 that required surgery. He took almost 3 seasons to recover. But this year in the Pirates AAA affiliate in Indianapolis, Lincoln is 6-2 with 55 Ks in just over 68 innings and a 3.16 ERA. Well, he's earned his start today, and the Pirates hope for a better result than last night.

If the game goes off tonight, Lannan will look for his first win at Nats Park all season. Last night's excitement might be exactly what the Nats needed to get started and get out of the funk they've been in. They've only won 3 of their last 10 games.

Here are tonight's scheduled home team starters:

1. Guzzie (4)
2. T. Plush (8)
3. Zimm (5)
4. Big Donkey (3)
5. Hammer (7)
6. Bernie (9)
7. Desmond (6)
8. Nieves (2)
9. Lannan (1)

Stephen Strasburg: Exceeding Exceptional Expectations

It's the top of the 7th inning. The crowd has been standing for a few minutes now. The cheers are booming; the crowd in awe. All eyes are on every single pitch. A spontaneous "Let's Go Nats" chant starts in the upper deck and makes its way around the entire park. The Blackberry's are put away; cameras are flashing. This playoff atmosphere wasn't for the playoffs at all. It was for the Washington Nationals who were 4 games below .500 entering Tuesday night, and the kid who has lived up to exceeded every unreasonably outrageous expectation: Stephen Strasburg.

Everyone knows about the outing by Strasburg by now, but it's worth repeating. Strasburg pitched 7 innings of 4 hit, 2 run baseball. Oh and he didn't walk a single batter. Oh, and he struck out 14 Pirates. You may be saying to yourself, wow, when's the last time a pitcher did that in his debut? The answer: 1971 when J.R. Richard struck out 15 for the Houston Astros. Yea, 29 years ago.

Strasburg did his 7 innings of work on 94 pitches. The last time someone got 14 strikeouts on less than 96 pitches? Never. In the history of Major League Baseball. Never ever. (Thanks to @AdamKilgoreWP for the stat.)

Strasburg's first strikeout of the night was against Lastings Milledge on 3 pitches. The die hard Nats fans ate it up. The crowd erupted. After Strasburg gave up a 2 run home run to Delwyn Young in the 4th inning, he retired the next 10 batters in a row. 8 of those 10 batters were struck out. Delwyn Young's home run came on a Strasburg change up after he threw two in succession.

In the 7th inning, Young was Strasburg's 13th strikeout victim of the game. On 3 fastballs. 98 mph. 98 mph. 99 mph. He learned from that mistake. After the game, Pittsburgh's Ronny CedeƱo said, "His change-up is like 89-90-91 miles an hour, man. That's hard to hit." That it is, Ronny. Especially after seeing a 99 mph fastball.

And then, there was the offensive comeback. The Nationals heart of the order was just that. Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham all had home runs, with Dunn and Willingham's back-to-back in the 6th to shoot the Nats ahead of the Bucks 4-2.

Washington never looked back, scoring another run in the bottom of the 8th. The Nats Clipp'd n Saved for Stephen Strasburg's first career win and Capps' 19th save on the season. A comeback that Capps desperately needed after blowing 3 of his last 4 save chances.

As a lifelong baseball fan, I have never been to a game that was so exciting with such an electric crowd. It is a game that not only Nationals fans, but baseball fans, will remember forever. Strasburg summed it up perfectly himself on MLB Network last night after the game. After he got 3 shaving cream pies to the face, he was asked if the cream stung. His response: "A little bit, but it's the greatest feeling in the world." For us, too, Stephen.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day Two of DC's Prospect-o-rama: Strasmas

Yesterday, I wrote about the Nats choosing Bryce Harper #1 overall in the 2010 MLB 1st Year Player Draft. (Harperkkah? anyone? maybe not.) And today... oh man... today...

Stephen Strasburg will make his Major League Baseball debut. I can't even believe I'm saying it myself. It's finally happening, the Messiah has come on this day known around DC, and now across the country, as Strasmas.

Strasburg will join the Nationals with a combined 7-2 record, a 1.30 ERA, and 65 strikeouts in the minor leagues. The Nats starter with the most strikeouts this season was RHP Craig Stammen actually, who was just sent down to AAA Syracuse to make room for Strasburg. Stammen had 31 Ks... Less than half of what Strasburg did in the minors.

Unfortunately, the hype around Strasburg has led to unreasonably high expectations. Some people, including me at times, expect SS to come onto the field at Nats Park tomorrow and expect a true Jesus-like miracle. Listen folks. This is a 21 year old kid who is going to have his share of bad days, because even the best of the best pitchers in history had them. And we're assume SS is the best of the best, and we have no idea if he actually is yet. Let us all remember, even if Strasburg goes out and has a horrible game today, it is just one game of many in his career.

After that downer of a paragraph, I must disclose that this was my feeble attempt at managing unreasonably high expectations, that even I hold, as I write this post in excitement of first pitch in a little less than 12 hours. (Aside: Baseball Historian Ken Burns will be throwing out the ceremonial 1st pitch at tonight's game... how appropriate.) I find it increasingly difficult to contain my elation for today's events.

Check back here either late tonight (depending on my level of exhaustion post game) or early tomorrow morning for pictures and comments about crowd reaction and the quality of pitches.

It's going to be a magical day in NatsTown.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Official: MLB 2010 1st Year Draft Underway

With the first selection of the 2010 the Washington Nationals select OUTFIELDER Bryce Harper. With Strasburg's start tomorrow, Harper immediately becomes the next #1 minor league prospect, if they're able to sign him. Good luck Mr. Rizzo. He's going to demand HUGE money.

There was a lot of speculation that the Nats could really use him somewhere other than catcher for three reasons.
  1. Harper's exceptional power
  2. Derek Norris is already the Nats prospect behind the plate
  3. The Nats are desperate for a power Right Fielder.
More updates to this post throughout the draft over the next 816549874 rounds.

Two Days of Nats Prospects

Today is June 7th. To computer nerds (like me), it is known as the day that Apple hosts its Worldwide Developers Conference where they'll likely release the next iPhone. But for baseball nerds (also like me), it is Day One of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft.

Bryce Harper
At approximately 7:15 pm this evening, Mike Rizzo and company will have to officially say what he's know for a while now. Will they take Bryce Harper 1st overall in 2010? The answer, quite simply, is yes.

Harper has been electric as a 17 year old and many scouts are saying he may be one of the best offensive prospects ever. Harper batted .442 in his 65 games played with an OBP of .524. Every other time he went to bat, he reached base. Absolutely incredible. One concern that the Nats should have about Harper is his attitude and on-field demeanor.

Now infamously, Harper was ejected from a game in the Junior College World Series after drawing a line in the dirt, showing up the home plate ump. It was not a smart protest by the young Harper, with the entire crowd watching his every move. The ump knew this too, and maybe thought he'd make stories for ejecting the latest phenom. And maybe Harper had something to protest about. The pitch looked to be about a mile outside. Literally in the right handed batters box. He should still have been more grown up than that. But then again... he's 17 years old people!



Stephen Strasburg
And tomorrow (June 8, in case you were living under a rock for the last week or so), it will be the Nats current phenom, Stephen Strasburg, making his MLB debut. RHP Craig Stammen was optioned to AAA Syracuse last night after his start against the Reds. Stammen pitched a solid 6 2/3 and only 66 pitches before getting pulled by Riggleman. Strasburg will face Jeff Karstens from Pittsburgh, who has a 4.50 ERA, but has spent most of his short MLB season (called up April 27th) in the bullpen. Talk about two contrasting starters.

Not too much more to say about SS until tomorrow when the start actually finally happens, but Capitol Baseball will be there with great pictures, from the first pitch to the standing ovation walk to the dugout.

Time for Clipp and Store(n)

Everyone in NatsTown has been talking about "Clipp and Save" or some variation of that when talking about Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps closing games up for the Nats. All season, Clippard has been pitching gem after gem, and so was Capps... until May 23rd.

Clippard stayed great. Clippard has gotten 5 holds since May 19th and hasn't blown a save or gotten a loss since that day. In 10 2/3 innings in his last 9 appearances, Tyler Clippard hasn't given up a single run and has only given up 4 hits. He has been electric.

Matt Capps is a different disappointing story. Capps has only gotten 2 saves since May 23rd. In the same time period, he's also blown 4 saves and gotten 2 losses. Capps has watched his ERA skyrocket from 2.11 on May 19th to 3.62 today. Meanwhile, in the same period of time since May 19th, Clippard's ERA has dropped from 2.22 to 1.66. Clippard has earned and re-solidified his spot in the bullpen as the set up guy, but Capps should take a seat to give Drew Storen a shot at saving some games.

After all, that's why the Nats signed Storen 10th overall in the 2009 draft behind Strasburg. Storen has too few appearances for these stats to mean a whole lot, but here it goes anyways. In his only 10 appearances this season, he is 1-0 with 3 holds and a 1.93 ERA. He's given up 2 runs on only 6 hits in those 9 2/3 innings pitched. Oh, and he's batting 1.000. (1 for 1... even though it doesn't matter much for a closer especially.)

The Nats are in a funk, losing 5 of their last 6, including 3 of 4 to the NL-worst Houston Astros. Washington's season is falling away from them, and they're at risk of losing it entirely if some fixes aren't made. The starters have been respectable, and the bullpen is starting to fall apart yet again. It's time to fix the most glaring problem now; the fact that the team's closer cannot close a game when the starter puts him in the position to do so. It's time to give someone a chance to save a game besides Matt Capps. Bring on Clipp & Store(n).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Joe West and His Incompetent Crew

Joe West is notorious for having a short temper and having no trouble tossing a player. Even the mild mannered Bob Carpenter had no trouble poking a bit of fun at the big man West, calling him "Heave Ho Joe" on Saturday night's broadcast. While that give me a chuckle, this umpiring crew is nothing to chuckle about.

On Friday night, the 3rd base umpire called Ian Desmond safe on a slide into 3rd base. It looked like Rolen's tag may have knocked Desmond's foot off of the bag, but it's hard to tell. Well the 1st base umpire, Joe West of course, said he had a better angle on the tag. Yes, from across the diamond. When the called was on the opposite side of the bag. West reversed the call, and tossed Desmond when he tried to ask for an explanation.

Then on Saturday, Brandon Phillips was called safe at 3rd due to interference by Desmond. Desmond clearly was running out of the way and Phillips ran into Desmond and pushed Ian out of the way. Another blown call that Riggleman argued and was... anyone.... tossed out. Phillips later came home and bowled over Wil Nieves for a clean play. Except he then came back, retouched the bag, and banged his chest several times. Pudge was fuming from the dugout, but Miguel Batista took care of business Batista slammed Phillips in the hip bone on the first pitch of his next at-bat. Batista then got tossed from the game by... Joe West.

This kind of umpiring has become a serious issue in all of baseball. Umpires used to come into the game, make their calls, and leave. Now, they want to become the headline of the game. Their names are displayed on the scoreboard next to the players. They want to be celebrities, too. West is already well-known across baseball for his comments about the length of Red Sox-Yankees games. Now, he's on a power trip to get his name out there more. Umpires like Joe West are absolutely ruining the game of baseball.

In contrast, there are guys like Jim Joyce. Joyce's name is out there now for blowing the call in Armando Galarraga's 26 out perfect game. Joyce wasn't out there to make a name for himself. He knew he blew the call almost immediately. Whether or not he should have overturned his own call is a totally different topic. Joyce got berated by Tigers Manager Jim Leyland for several minutes. Joyce just sat there and took it. He wasn't macho. He was wrong, and he listened to the manager's frustration in stride and let it go.

Jim Joyce is a class act for how he dealt with a terrible situation. Joe West is everything that's wrong with umpiring in baseball, and Major League Baseball needs to intervene to stop this sort of maverick-y umpiring. It's not what the game is about, and it needs to be stopped immediately.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Strasburg's 2nd DC Start

Well, everyone knows that Stephen Strasburg's MLB debut is this Tuesday, June 8th. The game will be covered locally on MASN 2 and nationally on MLB Network. Then, the Nats head on a little road trip to Cleveland to see the old skipper Manny Acta and to Detroit.

I went and looked at the old Nats schedule for June 19th, and the Nationals were supposed to play the White Sox in some interleague play at 7:05 pm. Well now, Fox will be showing that game as their Saturday afternoon game at 4:10 pm.

It's probably not an accident that the change just happens to be right on schedule to be Stephen Strasburg's 3rd start of the season, and 2nd at home. If you weren't able to land tickets to the June 8th game, you may want to go to nationals.com soon to claim yours for the 19th for your next best chance.

Later this weekend, I'm going to have some fairly in depth coverage of the abysmal umpiring this weekend in DC. Stay tuned, and feel free to comment.

DISCLAIMER: I am not guaranteeing any start by Strasburg, nor am I encouraging anyone to scalp tickets or purchase tickets for $2,000,000. That's just not smart. I will not be held responsible for any changes in pitching schedule or "lost tickets." I felt like that needed to be said to cover my behind.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The 26 Out Perfect Game

This year, it seems to me that umpires are routinely starting to miss more and more calls. Luckily, they have instant replay to review home runs and foul balls. However, it may be time for that to change.

Armando Galarraga is a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who officially retired 26 in a row last night against Manny Acta's Cleveland Indians. With Jason Donald up to bat with 2 out in the 9th inning, he hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield, the ball was flipped back to Galarraga at 1st, and Jim Joyce, the first base ump, called him safe. Donald was obviously out by more than 1/2 a step. That would have been the 27th consecutive out for the perfect game. The 3rd this season. Galarraga didn't flip out, he just stood and stared at Joyce, as if to say "you know you're wrong."

Well, Joyce knew he was wrong. He said so later, admitting his mistake and that there was nothing he could do about it. Well it's time to do something about it. Major League Baseball needs to get with the times of the rest of professional sports and allow coach's/manager's challenges. The system is up for the league to decide, but maybe each manager gets 1 a game with no consequence if you're wrong. Maybe each manager gets 2 a game, and if your wrong your team is charged a strike or an out. But it should be available for any play on the field, except for balls and strikes. Balls and strikes are definitely subjective, and I have no problem if they stay that way. But check swings, like Lance Berkman's 2 nights ago against Matt Capps that cost the Nats the game, should be reviewable as well.

I am tired of people arguing that using technology to assist umpires will ruin the game. I'll tell you what ruins the game. When a 28 year old pitcher with a career 4.50 ERA gets the chance for a perfect game, and it is stolen away from him on a terrible ump call on the last out of the game. THAT ruins baseball, not technology that helps an ump get the call right to credit this kid with the 21st perfect game in history.

Bud Selig has the opportunity to overturn the call. Will he? Probably not. Should he? It's hard to know the right answer. But what he absolutely must do is allow instant replay in baseball. Not in the off-season. Starting right now. Whether that's at the All-Star break or even starting today. But you do it as soon as possible to prevent this from happening again to a kid who deserves the honor of being one of the few to get one of the highest honors a pitcher can have. 27 up. 27 down.

UPDATE 3 pm: Bud Selig said that he won't be changing the decision on Galarraga's game. As outraged as I am about the blown call, I like Selig's decision here. Just think about one thing before you get too upset. Would you still want it to be overturned this badly if Joyce had called him safe and he was clearly out to take away a perfect game? Just something to ponder.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Roy Oswalt to the Nats?

This could be a very interesting month or so to be a Washington Nationals fan. In just 6 days on June 8th, Stephen "the Savior" Strasburg will throw his first ever MLB pitch (and Capitol Baseball will be there in our own Section 409 for all the action). This will probably be the first non-Red Sox sell out at Nats park since Opening Day. (If I'm wrong there, someone please correct me.) Just out a few hours ago, this game will be broadcast on MLB Network with Bob Costas and John Smoltz doing some commentary. Those of us in the MASN region will have to watch Bob and Rob on MASN2, due to MLB blackout restrictions.

On the eve of Strasburg's debut, the Nats will have the first pick of the 2010 Amateur Baseball Draft. Bryce Harper, the 17 year old catching superstar, will likely be that pick. Some reports have Harper as one of the best raw power guys in the draft. He obviously has work to do as a mere teenager, but the Nats could use some power behind the plate.

And then there is Roy Oswalt. (I knew I'd get around to a post on this guy soon enough.) After his 3rd inning ejection against the Nats on Memorial Day, Oswalt got to talk to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore about his no-trade clause. Oswalt cited Stephen Strasburg's rising as a reason to come pitch in DC, saying "They've been playing well. They've got a good offensive club. I saw where they have Strasburg coming up. He should make an immediate impact, especially, because no one's seen him in the league, early. There's always a little adjustment period there." He said he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to pitch for the Nationals. ESPN's Buster Olney added to the speculation this morning, saying about a trade with the Nats, "on paper, this is the best fit for the Astros for a possible deal."

Imagine if you will, in an ideal world, this pitching rotation:
  1. Stephen Strasburg
  2. Roy Oswalt
  3. John Lannan
  4. Livan Hernandez
  5. A healthy version of: Scott Olsen/Jason Marquis/Chien-Ming Wang
I am trying to stay calm, but the prospects make it difficult. Stay tuned for exciting Natstown news for a few more weeks. If GM Mike Rizzo has shown anything, it's that he knows how to make a deal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The perfect picture to go with earlier "Ryans, and Nyjers, and Strasburgs: Oh My!" Post

Photo Courtesy Section138 via Nationals Journal

Cristian Guzman: An Everyday Player

When the season began, Ian Desmond was on a tear coming out of spring training. He was batting .279 with an OBP of .338 and had a slugging rating of .463. According to Manager Jim Riggleman, that was enough to earn him the starting shortstop job. And with good reason. The Nats were looking ahead to the future of the ball club when 2010 began. They wanted to throw out the old and bring in the new. Speaking of the old: At the start of 2010, there was only 1 player left from the Opening Day 2005 roster. His name was Cristian Guzman. That alone probably did not help his cause for the starting spot.

Instead, Guzman started the season as a utility guy, making some appearances at 2nd base and right field, with a few starts at shortstop for Desmond to get a day's rest. The results have been staggering for Cristian. He's batting .327 with a .412 slugging %. His OBP is only .026 above his batting average, but that's what we've come to expect from Guzzie. He's going to swing a lot, but he's going to make contact enough to satisfy. He is on base 1 out of every 3 at bats because of contact alone. He's a threat as a switch hitter, too: batting .400 from the right and a very respectable .279 from the left. People have made the argument that Guzman has lost range and is a liability in the field. At the end of 2009, I'd probably agree with you, but in 176 chances at 3 separate positions this season, Guzman has made only 2 errors for a .989 fielding percentage.

Meanwhile, Adam Kennedy still holds the role as the official starting 2nd baseman. He enters today with a meagre .250 batting average and a .352 slugging %. Both significantly lower numbers than Guzman. Kennedy often enters the game as a defensive upgrade, but with only a few more chances than Guzman (196) he's made more than double the number of errors (5) for a disappointing .974 fielding percentage. Kennedy is a lefty batting .250, and when Guzman bats lefty he is hitting .279. What this means, exactly? Even as a spot starter against righties Kennedy, no longer makes sense.

Guzman should be playing every single day for the Nats to continue competing. It makes no sense to have a guy that can compete at this level day in and day out to be sitting on the bench. Guzman is commanding $8 million this season, and he's earning it so far. I'm the last guy to say "well they're paying him so much, so he might as well play," but in this case it's true. Production earns playing time, and there is no good reason to not play Guzman every day.