At some point soon I'm going to look a lot closer at his starts, and try to figure out what's different. Right now, it seems to me that he has a little more velocity--touching 90-91 more consistently than last year--and his command is just really sharp. And of course, the consistency. The kid just never seems to seems to lose it. In the meantime, if any of the people out there who know more about baseball than me have a theory or an observation, I'm interested.
In other news, JimBo was chatty again yesterday. Here are my reactions, which are not universally negative. First, from the WaPo Notebook:
"I didn't think it was a balk," Bowden said. "It's the same move he has made for 10 years. I've looked at the video many times. . . . And if the league agrees it's not a balk, like every other crew has ruled this year, then I think we need to make sure it's one rule for him. Because it's frustrating for a pitcher when you go out there and you make the move all year long and it's not a balk, and then one umpire crew calls it a balk. So it's unfair and unjust."I'm glad to see him defend a player publicly, in part because in the past he's had a bad habit of tearing into guys unfairly (more on this below re: Rogearvin). But is this really helpful? I mean, you never win arguments with umps. If you want to appeal to the league for clarification or to make a point, fine. But why do we need all this about what a victim Odalis is? Seems like Angel Hernandez is a real dickhead, but how does it help to provoke him more? This seems like Bowden just drawing attention to himself in the media and not really caring that what he's saying could hurt his team.
Then from Nationals Journal:
ON SIGNING THE TEAM'S FIRST FIVE DRAFT PICKS: "We're working at it. We're grinding it out. We think the market's pretty clear. We hope our players sign, because I hate when our players use a year. ... As soon as they want to pick up the phone and agree, it's close."I'm not that worked up about this now, because a) to date only one-third of the first round has been signed, and b) the Lerners showed their willingness to spend on draft picks last year when they signed every last pick, including paying way "above slot" (the silly system Bud created to keep contracts under control by having a recommended salary for every pick) for Jack McGeary. One of the reasons I'm impatient with the "Lerners are Cheeeeeeeeeeap!" pitchfork brigade is because they actually haven't been cheap when the spending is consistent with the focus on drafting and developing youth. I'm in favor of smart spending, and I think there are too many fans out there who just want to see the payroll go up "just to show we're trying," even if it means hurting the team in the long-run by committing to a bunch of Sabeanian old/declining players. Now, if we get skimpy this year and lose Aaron Crow or another high pick, I'll be way more critical.
ON ZIMMERMAN TAKING BP: "It's encouraging. I was in meeting today. Saw his bp yesterday, missed today's. Manny sent me an e-mail when it was done, and he said it was even better than yesterday. So I think we all need to be optimistic at this point that there's a good chance he'll be able to come back some time after the All-Star break and he'll be able to continue on. He's not in pain. He's swinging the bat free and easy."Good news. Nothing really to comment on here, so I'll just talk about something else. How about the long-term contract talks? I'm guessing the adjectives wouldn't be "free and easy." But seriously, now's the time to try to ink him. Don't wait till he comes back with a monster August and September. Stop talking about Ian Kinsler's lowball contract. Put something like 6 years, $40 million on the table while Zimmerman's stock is depressed, and it'll be a total bargain come 2015. And give the fans something to feel good about. Get it done.
ON PITCHING PROSPECT SHAIRON MARTIS: "This is a guy we got in Mike Stanton trade. This is a pitcher who's got three-plus pitches. He's got a great frame. He goes right at them. He's always been one of our favorites. He's already in Triple-A at age 21. ... He's a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. He's got a great changeup. The one thing he's developed this year -- he's added some velocity for whatever reason. He's gotten up to 94. He was a prospect at 89-91 with a great change, and knew how to pitch, and now he's up to 94 with the same stuff. So he's developing."Good! And did you know he's a Curacaoan and played in the WBC for Holland? Fun! Maybe after 16 years of cycling through the likes of Ryan Drese Bowden's finally unlearning the lesson he seems to have taken from Pete Schourek, that the way to build a pitching staff is to just pick through the scrap heap for reclamation projects. There are a number of Bowden comments out there along these lines, but I'll cite this one from Nats320: "I remember, when we had claimed (Northern Virginia Product & Pitcher) Pete Schourek (while Bowden was the Cincinnati GM) off waivers from The Mets, he had the highest ERA among all pitchers in Major League Baseball. Then, the next year, he was second in Cy Young." Yes, Bowden gets credit for Schourek, but to think that was anything other than a once-in-a-career bolt from the blue is silly. I don't know if this kid Martis has a future, but this is the kind of deal we should have been making from the start. And I'd still rather have a GM who really believes in it, rather than one who's dragged kicking and screaming into it. But, still, good for Martis. Let's hope we don't package him for Adam Dunn.
IMPRESSIONS OF ROGER BERNADINA: "This guy hit .325 in Double-A and did extremely well. Look, we've seen some good things. During the Sunday game in Cincinnati with the bunt, and the line drive was exciting. The catch he made in Florida was exciting. When you jump them from Double-A, that's a big jump. A lot of times we'll sit there and say, 'Well, let's just bring up all the kids and let them play and learn.' Well, when you put them over their heads, there are risks there too that you don't always like. You just had to be patient with them and give them love, and it's going to take some growing pains."What else is Bowden going to say, really? He doesn't have anywhere else to go. But still, it's nice to see JimBo backing his guys up. Remember, Bowden has a track record of really tearing into his players publicly and throwing people under the bus. Whether it's questioning the dedication of guys like Ryan Church and Brian Schneider or going off about the struggling offense in August 2005, he's really prone to running down his own players in a way I think hurts the team and makes people not want to play here. This is more what you should be hearing from a GM about a struggling player.
EVER CONSIDER BARRY BONDS?: "No, because how old is he? He doesn't fit into our long-term plan.Oh Andrew Astleford, did you really have to go there?