Saturday, April 18, 2009

Maybe Aaron Crow Can Close?

Went to my first game today, and I was feeling like quite the good luck charm for a while, but now here we are, 1-9, and coming off two killer losses. Everyone assumed that the Nationals would be better this year. First, how could they be worse? Second, getting Zimmerman, Kearns, Dukes and Johnson healthy would help. And of course you're adding Dunn.

But here's the thing. For the Nationals to be better, they'd also need repeat performances from guys like John Lannan and Cristian Guzman. They need to get similar production from second base, where Ronnie Belliard quietly had a career year at the plate. They'd need Daniel Cabrera to be as good as Tim Redding was, and Scott Olsen would have to give them at least as much as Odalis Perez gave them in 2008.

And probably most dubiously the bullpen would need to repeat the performance of last year, when they pitched 553.1 innings of 4.18 ERA ball (the average NL bullpen threw 514 innings at 4.09). No part of the team was as close to average as the bullpen last year.
And to achieve that repeat performance, Joel Hanrahan would have to be as effective closing out wins as he and Jon Rauch were last year, when they combined 26 for 35 in save situations.

If most of those things don't happen, then the additional contributions the team would get from LF, 1B, and RF might not be enough to do anything more than make up for regression elsewhere. Well, it looks like a lot of those things aren't happening, and the Nationals are flirting with another 100-loss season.

Here are some other observations from today:

--For an absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon game, the stadium was empty. The announced attendance was 19,864, which is terrible, and between the late arrivals and the early departures it felt like a much smaller crowd. When Hermida hit the game-winner I'd guess there were less than 7,000 in the park.

--Josh Bard bats fifth? Really I don't know if that's a comedy or a tragedy. Maybe one of those problem plays. This is the kind of thing that could make Manny history.

--In such a close game, how does Manny not find an at bat for Josh Willingham? Maybe there's something wrong with him that we don't know about, but geez.

--Elijah Dukes sits for being five minutes late? Gimme a break. This team is in an historic tailspin. They've lost 111 of their last 168 games going back to last year. And they think they have time to play games like this?

--Olsen's performance was encouraging--it goes to show that a soft-tossing lefty can survive if he's putting everything on the black. And click through the pitch-by-pitch at Gameday, and you'll see he was right on the black most of the afternoon. But before you get too excited, he was very lucky to get out of the second without more damage. And his fastball sat at 87 most of the day. And his ERA is still 9.00.

--Kearns's homer was another nice sign that he's healthy and back being to the guy he was a couple years ago.


Hendo said...

Elijah Dukes sits for being five minutes late? Gimme a break. . . . they think they have time to play games like this?Sitting Dukes was the right thing and sent the right message. Manny has to assert control, even if it may be too late to do so.

. . . the Nationals are flirting with another 100-loss season.Flirting, my foot. They've got the beer goggles on.

Hendo said...

I'll amend my first point. Evidently Dukes was late coming from a charity event. Good grief.

JayB said...


It is time for Acta to go, just wanted to remind you that I have been pointing out the problems with Acta in game and in Spring Training for about a year now. Same as Milledge who is not ever going to play CF or Lead Off for the Nats or anyone else....That was the biggest deflator of the year and it was all Manny Acta. Time to pay the bill.

Bote Man said...

Sometimes, ya just gotta shake your head in disbelief and laugh.

Me, I moved down here to south Florida 12 years ago and I am laughing heartily as I watch the Marlins make mincemeat of the NL East.

I'm calling for the Nats to win the remainder of their victories by default, as their opponents refuse to take the field against a AAA ball club.


Wil Nieves said...

"the outfielder was warned that if he was late again, he would be optioned to Triple-A Syracuse."This seems a pretty extreme punishment/warning for a guy who has been 5 minutes (!) late twice in two years. Especially since he was signing balls for Little Leaguers... This seems to be another case of Manny/FO looking silly in the press over what should have been a very minor issue.

How long do you think Hanrahan will keep the closer's spot?

John said...

re: Dukes- not only did they bench him for being five minutes late after coming from a community event, but they also threatened to send him to AAA! Between this and the Milledge move, it seems like Rizzo is doing whatever he can to prove that there's a new sheriff in town, whether or not it makes sense. It smells a little desperate to me.