Thursday, August 7, 2008

Scouting Report: Let's Play Two!

Nationals at Rockies Double-Header: Thursday, August 6 at 3:05 ET
Dukes goes to the DL as Manny crawls back towards a full deck of 25 guys available. Guzman is still day-to-day, however, so we'll still be playing short-handed today. And if there's anything worse than playing short-handed, it's playing short-handed at altitude against a better team that is very good at home with a double-header in the midst of a nearly 3-week run of games without an off day. We darn well better have heart.

Garrett Mock comes back up--someone please explain to me why he was ever sent down in the first place? Guzman should have been DL-ed immediately on July 26. Once we had Gonzalez, it would have been a perfect opportunity to let the kid play without Guzman kvetching. Regardless, you just cannot have guys taking up active roster space unable to play for two weeks. If Bowden was pulling this nonsense in the middle of an actual pennant race, it would be criminal.
Sorry for being such a broken record on this, but this has all been so unnecessary, and today I think is the day it all really comes to a head for the Nationals.

Here's my take on today's twin bill.

Game One Pitching Match-Up
Jeff Francis: I did this one yesterday--you can check it out here. Basic summary: Francis is just a garden-variety average lefty. He's no Johan Santana--he's not even John Lannan really.

Jason Bergmann: Bergy in Coors. Buckle your seatbelts, kids. If Brad Hawpe's available in your roto league, pick him up now. I hate to predict absolute doom for the kid, but if we don't see Garrett Mock before the fifth inning, I'll be thanking my lucky stars.

Bergmann gets more flyball outs than any starter in baseball--52.4%. The next highest rate of pitchers who qualify is Tim Wakefield at 48.3%. And he gets particularly mauled by lefties. Today, take cover.

Game Two Pitching Match-Up
Ubaldo Jimenez: A 24-year-old power pitcher with a plus fastball and command issues. My kind of guy! With a fastball that comes in at 94.7 on average, Jimenez throws harder than any starter in MLB other than Felix Hernandez.

He has the strikeouts you'd expect (18.6% of batters faced; league average is 16%) but is walking 4.37 per 9, which is way too much, especially pitching in Coors. What's allowed him to get away with it and still post an impressive 3.61 ERA is that he has a more than 2:1 groundball-to-flyball ratio on balls in play. That's a great number. He's also stranding 72.8% of his runners, which isn't a super-high number, but there's certainly room to fall, especially given how stone-gloved the Rockies have been this year. Lefties hit him a good bit better than righties, so with lefty Jeff Francis pitching game one, expect to see Langerhans, Harris, Casto, and Orr playing in the nightcap (although really I'd like to see Langerhans playing behind Bergmann too).

Bottom line, Jimenez is having a simply great season by any measure for a kid his age, but given that he's starting half his games in the league's most silly hitter's park, he's been phenomenal. Especially recently; since June 1, he's been a Cy Young-caliber pitcher, posting a 2.38 ERA, .209 batting average against, and getting his walks down to a tolerable level (10.5% of batters faced). If he finishes the year with an ERA under 4, which seems very likely at this point, he'd be only the third starter in Rockies' history to do so (Joe Kennedy and Jason Jennings were the others).

Odalis Perez: Again I did this one yesterday. Nothing to add--check it out here.

What To Look For
--If there was ever a time when you should be wishing Roger Bernadina was a available, this is it. Unless Manny's going to make Harris and Langerhans play all 18, he has a tough choice between having his best defensive outfield behind Bergmann and the lefty-righty match-up at the plate. What do you do with Milledge? You don't really want one of the league's worst CFs behind the league's most extreme flyball pitcher in the league's most expansive outfield, but if he sits the day game and plays the night game then he's missing the favorable matchup with Francis and facing a power righty who will most likely eat him up. I understand not wanting to mess with Bergmann's routine by bumping him into the nightcap, but if these games counted for anything I'd want to flip around the starters. As it is, I guess I'd rather protect Bergmann and let Milledge flail away at Ubaldo.

--The Nationals as a group are .174 BA / .296 OBP / .304 SLG versus Jimenez in one game. Harris and Langerhans are the only ones who really did anything at all.

--On the other hand, the Rox team OPS vs. Bergmann is 1.250--that came in his one career start against them in Coors 2 years ago in which he lasted 3.2 and gave up runs in every inning and actually got away lucky.

What to Root For
Survival. If Bergmann makes it through 4 innings and E-Bone doesn't strike out 7 times today, that's a start. If Perez doesn't act up and someone actually has a good game against Jimenez, that's a bonus. If we split, I'll be doing backflips.

Fearless Prediction
(Season record: 7-7)

Rockies batter Bergy and win 12-3 in game one, and sweep the double-header 5-0 behind a lights-out double-digit strikeout game from Jimenez.


Hendo said...

Your prediction might have come true if the first-edition 2008 Nats had been on the field.

I'm still pinching myself.

Sean Hogan said...

So if they split, you would have done backflips. What are you doing now that they won?

Steven said...

I stand by my assessment. We had no business taking both of those games. It doesn't "mean" anything in the playoff race or anything, but they not only had to fight, but they had to win some very unfavorable match-ups. It helped that Jimenez regressed and has his worst start in 3 months, but regardless, you have to hand it to them.

What I mean is, I was obviously wrong, but I really think we have reason to be proud of our guys this morning. They beat the odds.