Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scouting Report: Phillies at Nationals (7/31)

Phillies at Nationals: Wednesday, July 31 at 7:10 ET
Eight losses in a row. But we scored. It kinda feels like we're making progress. Here's my take on the series finale against the Philly.

Pitching match-up
Kyle Kendrick: Uh oh. Another sinker-baller. Hudson, Lowe, now Kendrick. You know the drill. If you swing at his pitch, you'll make a ground-ball out. If you wait till he leaves the ball up, you'll eventually get some fat pitches to hit. Why is it that these types give us such a hard time again?

Kendrick isn't nearly as good as these guys. He only has the sinker, a slider, and an occasional change. Watch the highlights from his last start, a good one against the Braves. He had his slider working on a couple strikeouts, but it's mostly ground-outs. He doesn't walk many, but he gets killed by lefties, giving up a .927 OPS this year. Two pitches, neither really a plus, just aren't enough to get by in the big leagues with any consistency.

John Lannan: There's no more promising development at the major league level for the Nationals this season than the emergence of Lannan. He
's had just one start against Philly. It was his major league debut, and he didn't fare well. That was then, and this is now. Look for fastball, slider, curve, and change-up, and you should expect few walks and a lot of groundball outs. Pay attention to the sequences--how he spots his fastball to set up the slider and curve, keeping everything down and making hitters put his pitch in play. The kid has great command, knows how to pitch, and is a solid #3 right now at age 23.

Look at these quotes from the gamer covering Lannan's last start. He's commenting on a rare loss of command in the sixth inning that resulted in the three runs that tagged him with the loss:
"Well, with Kent up there, I went 2-0, and I was overthrowing a lot. Randy came out and settled me down," Lannan said. "He told me just to back off a little bit. Just hit my spots. That whole inning I was all over the place. I was trying to throw too hard, and just got away from what I was doing the whole game."

"I definitely learned a lot today," he said. Asked to elaborate, he said: "Well, I'm not an overpowering pitcher. I've got to go out there and hit my spots. That's what I've been doing all year. So, I can't just go out there and do too much. I learned that when I went back out there in the seventh. I didn't do too much, got a couple ground balls and got the team back in the dugout."
With that kind of poise and intelligence, Brett Myers would have 10 wins and a 3.00 ERA right now. Odalis Perez would be making $5-6 million. Hell of a find in the 11th round for Dana Brown (ok, JimBo gets some credit too).

What To Look For
The Nationals haven't faced Kendrick much, but Zimmerman's hit him hard in 9 AB. Two walks and a double for Zimmerman. Time for him to heat up. And just as soon as he's reminding us how good he is, the Nationals should give the man his 6 years and $42 million, or whatever it'll take. If they want to put some good news in the Natmosphere and keep season tickets from cratering in year two, it would be a good first step.

Charlie Slowes said that Casto was taking some reps at first today before the game. It's about time Manny sits Lo Duca. Unless he's getting ready to play the whiny little bitch at catcher.

Nothing to do with this game, but Barry Zito and Jamie Moyer could throw 100 sub-70 mph curves in a row and Felipe Lopez wouldn't hit a one.

Whither Guzzy?

What to Root For
Lannan, of course. Thinking long-term, I feel better about him and Bergy right now than any two pitchers we've had since the dual aces of Livo and Patterson in 2005. That might seem a little premature, but if they can stay healthy I think these guys are both going to be very solid for us for years going forward.

What to Feel Good About
Jesus Flores. It's very exciting to see a kid that young to be able to turn on breaking stuff with power the way he can. Last night, he clubbed a homer on a good Moyer change-up down and away that showed great strength and hit a long single that missed a home run by just a few feet. He also hit a warning track flyball the other way. Click on "doubles" in his spray chart and you'll see basically all his power has been pulling the ball to left. If, in addition to everything else he's doing well, he can learn how to go to the opposite field with power too, that could add another 15 or so extra base hits a year.

Fearless Prediction
(Season record: 6-2, one bull's eye)
The Nationals stop the bleeding behind another good Lannan outing and win 6-3. And Hanrahan gets his first save.

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