Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Set Up To Fail

So, last night Stephen Strasburg made his triumphant return to baseball in exclamatory fashion, striking out four, walking none, and allowing just two hits in five amazing innings of work. We aren't going to write about that though; we recommend that you head to where I'm sure that Dave Sheinin has written an amazing feature about the appearance and that Tom Boswell has stated that he is the next Walter Johnson.

The game was far from over when Strasburg left, as noted by Adam Kilgore who made it clear that the Dodger's had just 2 hits through 5, while ending with 13... Ouch.

On a day that more closely resembled a Little League game (everybody plays!) than a MLB game, there were two decisions that really frustrated me as a writer and as a fan.

Play one:
Bottom 9. Two outs. Bases Loaded. 7-3 Game. Your two best hitters have just struck out looking. Sounds like the perfect situation to put in a kid making his MLB-debut, right? Well, only if you are absolutely insane. Nope, that's exactly what Davey Johnson decided to do. .235-in-AAA hitter Corey Brown entered as a pinch hitter, making his MLB-debut with the game on the line and all of the pressure on his shoulders. Brown did a decent job fighting off Guerra's gas, but eventually hit a lazy fly to left to end the game; all this while Pudge, Flores, Cora, and Nix all sat on the bench.

Play two:
It was reported before the game that Brad Peacock would not enter a game mid-inning, because it doesn't make sense to have a starter appear in the game mid-inning. Flash-forward to the end of the 5th inning, Strasburg has done his thing, the Nats have a 3-0 lead, enter Peacock, right? Wrong. Enter Doug Slaten in just his 2nd appearance post-DL. Two hits later and Davey calls for Peacock. Once again, we have a player making his MLB-debut. So, in his first career appearance he has to come in with two runners on against Matt Kemp, the NL leader in WAR and front-runner for NL MVP. Well, by now you know what happened - coming in mid-inning, having to pitch out of the stretch, against the NL's best hitter - Peacock blinked and the game was tied. As if he didn't have enough adversity to overcome just to make the big-leagues, you know - being a 41st round pick and all.

I'm not the only one who was frustrated by this last decision by Davey Johnson. Here is what the Natsosphere had to say...

Adam Kilgore - "Tie game. Doug Slaten started the mess. Davey let Brad Peacock, a prospect and starter, begin his career from the stretch against Matt Kemp."

Ben Goessling - "A guy with 12 career relief appearances started his major league career from the stretch. That's a mess"

Mark Zuckerman - "Davey said he wouldn't bring in Peacock in middle of inning. So naturally he brings him in to face Matt Kemp with 2 on and 1 out in 6th."
- "This game is tied 3-3 and Strasburg can't get the win. Can't blame Peacock. He's a starter. Why was he making MLB debut in this spot?"

I spent my college years training to be a teacher and one of the most important lessons I learned is that no matter what you do, you have to set your students up for success. Now, I know that Davey Johnson is out there trying to win ballgames, and if that is the case then why is he putting kids making their MLB-debuts in such pressure-packed situations.

It is clear by this point that the Nats aren't a playoff team, or even a .500 team. It seems to me like the organizational philosophy this September has been to see what the young kids can do (See: Livo shutdown, Marrero everyday). And if that is the case then why are we setting up these kids to fail by putting them in situations that are heavily stacked against them. It just doesn't make much sense.

What do you think, CapBallers? Did last night frustrate you as much as it did me? Sound off in the comments!


  1. Yes - and I am glad to see that some of the media that had previously done nothing but fawn over Davey Johnson finally had the cojones to speak up. That was a mess of the first degree. I am all for showcasing young talent and letting them get a taste of the majors, but this is not spring training - the season is not over - we have guys out there fighting for their major league careers who are paid to play all of the games.

  2. Of everything I have read thus far this does the best job of describing the game I saw and the frustration I felt. My training and experience as in college student development taught me the same thing. You give young adults the opportunity to experience success in ever increasing challenges, not throw them in the fire Day One. The other crime was bringing in Severino for his MLB debut with the remnant crowd cheering him on. After he saw the crowd support for Strasburg and Peacock, it had to have been a real downer. Its not like there weren't others in the pen. Everyone gets one MLB debut and Peacock, Severino and Brown deserved better set-ups for theirs.

  3. Oh, almost forgot Lombardozzi. Another guy whose MLB debut is before fewer than were probably at his MiLB debut.

  4. really just inexcusable on all accounts to tell peacock and everyone else he won't enter mid inning and then to just toss him in. did he not remember his own plan did he even really have one did he call an audible on rizzos plan will he be shown the door in the offseason? don't ask davey he has no freaking idea

  5. Capitol Baseball wrote:

    "On a day that more closely resembled a Little League game (everybody plays!) than a MLB game, there were two decisions that really frustrated me as a writer and as a fan.

    Play one:..."


    As descriptors, "situation one"/"situation two" would've been far more appropriate. "Play one"?/Play two"? Sounds like Little League writing.

  6. After Peacock's MLB debut last night, the upside is it can only get better. Unless Davey comes up with another wacky scenario for the kid.

  7. I could not agree more. If we're "playing the kids" then what the hell is Slaten doing in there? Why is he still on this team, after the debacle of inherited runners-scored and WHIP ratios he's put up this year? Is anyone surprised Slaten gave up 2 hits but only got one out?

    Bringing Peacock in as a mid-inning reliever? Ridiculous. Henry Rodriguez allowing 3 hits and 2 runs? Not surprising.

    Hey, at least Severino finally got a 1/3 of an inning.

  8. And are you KIDDING me-- don't put Peacock in to save his "fragile" confidence. 41st round draft pick, the guy has worked his butt off and you are going to hold him back to get rained out of his debut?????????

    Peacock wasn't ready, so Davey held him back a couple of batters and put him in when he was ready. End of story.

  9. And I'm a teacher, too. Davey did the right thing with Peacock. As far as Slaten, he coulda been Joe Blow--he's lefty, a couple of lefties were up, Slaten supposedly wants a job. He probably ain't getting one.

  10. anon 909 thanks for the middle school editting davey can't control the situation only the way he decides to respond to them

    nats lady say what you will about learning on the job it's simply unacceptable to thrown starter in his first MLB appearance in the middle of an inning with runners on against the nl MVP. the left on left agruement for slaten is ridiculous peacock as a starter needs to face both and we shouldnt care if slaten gets innings at the expense of any ofthe young guys

  11. Actually, the left-on-left argument makes a lot of sense to me. Slaten faced pinch-hitter, Gordon, Loney. Gordon's line against lefties is .263/.282/.289, and he looked terrible against Lannan. Loney has a .524 OPS against lefties (I believe they sat him against Lannan) and a .769 OPS against righties. And if I recall, Slaten induced a weak grounder from Gordon, which he beat out, and got Loney out. So to me, it's pretty clear that going with Slaten first made a win more likely. I'm not going to complain about that.

  12. yeah ok let's have slaten pitch to the lead off man in every game if he is a lefty. that's not the way this works last night was supposed to double as a start for both pitchers. if he was going to have a righty come in mid inning why use a rookie starter and not a reliever. the approach seems wildly dichotomus play to win and for matchups...but misuse a rookie in a vein effort to see what he can do for the team. are we committing to give the young guys a chance or you are trying to win games at all cost. rizzo needs to set davey straight on what we are doin these last weeks

  13. Having Peacock start an inning four times over the next month tells us virtually nothing about his potential as a starting pitcher. If anything, the team should be more interested to know how he handles a difficult situation like the one he was placed in last night. But the reality is that very little weight should be placed on his performance this month. It's a tiny sample size in unusual circumstances.

  14. having him start innings will tell you more than having him enter mid-inning. starting pitchers are habitual, certain warm up time pre game, warm up pre inning. plus it takes a certain skill set to come in to a game with runners on a shut it down. there are many quality SP out there that i doubt could walk into that roll. so why waste one of the looks we get at peacock using him in a roll that he isnt suited for, has never performed in and isnt expected to fulfill in the future...

  15. No matter what, he wasn't going to get his full pre-game ritual, which often involves long toss in the outfield, etc. Peacock appeared exclusively as a reliever in the AFL last year and was very successsful, although I don't know whether he came into the middle of an inning or not. A pitcher with his stuff should be reasonably well-suited to relief, and at least one prospect guru (Keith Law) thinks that's where he's going to end up. In any case, my bottom line is that the decision to use Slaten first wasn't unreasonable. It put Peacock in a tough spot, but if there's anything to learn this month, it's how a pitcher handles a tough spot.