Saturday, September 19, 2009

Famous Last Words

"Just one more drink--then I'll drive home."

"I'm pretty sure it's safe this time of the month."

"Afghanistan is no match for a superpower."

"I didn't want to take Pete Orr's bat out of the lineup."
OK, before we get to the whole issue of how Ian Desmond, who never played the outfield at any professional level ever, had no business being in right field in the first place, let's go to the top of the seventh.

The Scats were down 1-0.
Tim Redding--he of the 5.52 ERA at the start of the day--had allowed just two hits over six. (Both pitchers benefited greatly from Mark Wegner's enormous "let's get this over with" strike zone.) But it was Redding's third time through the order. He had walked the completely punchless John Lannan the prior inning. And due up were Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and, if anyone got on, Josh Willingham. This was the inning to take the lead and win the game.

Guzman led off with a swinging bunt for an infield hit. Zimmerman came to the plate, carrying with him 30 dingers, 96 RBI, and a .374 wOBA.

And Fizzleman called a hit-and-run. Sigh. He basically sacrifices his best hitter and opens first base with Dunn coming up. Just a terrible, terrible decision. Redding threw a slider way down out of the zone, and Zimm did well just to put a bat on this ball:

It would have been a double-play if Redding hadn't bobbled it, and Zimmerman let Riggleman know about it when he got to the dugout. Ever remember Zimmerman arguing with a manager, even a little? Me neither.

After a wild pitch, Dunn got a base hit to drive in Guzman (who would have scored even without sacrificing Zimmerman). Then, Willingham, really the last good hitter left in the line-up, came to the plate, and Riggleman called a hit-and-run again! With Adam Dunn running!! Can you imagine what kind of ball Willingham would have to hit to score Dunn from first?

Willingham thankfully fouled it off. Riggleman sent Dunn again on what turned out to be ball four, but with the weak bottom of the Nationals order coming up the threat was pretty much over. Orr struck out on three pitches, and Desmond popped out to end the inning.

So that brings us to the bottom of the inning. Late and close, it was way past time to end the little Ian Desmond outfield experiment and get a real defense out there. Elijah Dukes, after all, was on the bench, as were Justin Maxwell, Jorge Padilla, and Mike Morse. There were plenty of options.

Instead, Fizzleman said, "I hesitated to take the left-handed bat out of the lineup, Orr, if we were still tied."

Sometimes I just feel silly presenting statistical evidence to make a point. Is it really necessary to prove that Pete Orr's isn't a very good hitter?

Look, I'
m all for optimizing the hitter/pitcher match-ups, but here are Orr's career numbers against right-handed pitching: .271 / .295 / .354. Here are Dukes's career numbers against righties: .247 / .353 / .429. Heck, even right-handed Mike Morse (.274 / .341 / .347) is better against right-handed pitching than Orr.

Yeah, I know, the handful of you still paying attention will say Orr has 15 hits in 52 at bats since getting called up. Four of those hits even went for extra bases. But c'mon. This guy is a 30-year-old with 452 career at bats. He is who he is. He hit .245 / .305 / .367 in AAA this year. He wasn't even guaranteed to get another at bat in the game with only two innings to go anyway.

By all accounts, Pete Orr is a nice guy, and I don't have any problem with him making a living in AAA for some team that thinks it might need him as a spare part some time. But if you ever find yourself managing a Major League Baseball team, and you're considering the downside of taking Orr's bat out of the line-up, please, give yourself a hard slap in the face.

You know the rest. Wright hit a screaming liner right at Desmond. He took one step in, and that was that. Francoeur doubled home Wright, and later in the inning Francoeur scored on what should have been the third out of the inning. The Mets led 3-1 before Lannan could get the fifth out of the inning.

All of this is on top of the fundamental blunder, which was playing Desmond in right field in the first place? CitiField is a notoriously difficult right field, and the sun was tough for even experienced outfielders. Is this any way to help transition a young player to the big leagues? Really, this is setting him up for failure.

And just for the sake of thoroughness,
in the eighth with one out Fizzleman pinch-ran for Josh Bard with Jorge Padilla. Bard was not the tying run, and they were going to need a hit to score him anyway. The upside of the situation just didn't justify burning one of his only two catchers and putting the team one hammy away from seeing Pete Orr catch.

It was not a good day for the Nationals' manager.


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what a whole season with Riggleman in charge would have been like, and I hope that I won't have to find out.

Nate said...


Anonymous said...

Steven Says.....If he (Lannan) was a 200 IP sub-4 guy, you'd be right. He's not. I'll bet you $50 that Lannan gets neither 200 IP nor ends the year with an ERA under 4.00.......don't look now Steven but you will lose that bet....and if the Nats had anything like a average Defense all year you would loses it big.

Steven said...

I have been looking, and he's not going to finish under 4. Forget that, even with all those starts against the pitiful Mets.

200 innings? I was convinced that the team would shut him down at some point, because there was so much talk around the team that he was totally gassed.

But now it looks like that won't happen. He'll probably need two starts to get the 8 more innings he needs, but there are enough games left that he'll get that if he keeps taking his regular turns. And since he'll probably get the Braves twice, he doesn't exactly have to survive the 27 Yankees.

Still, I'm not ready to throw in the towel on that bet. We'll see.

Steven J. Berke said...

Haven't seen a Nats manager lose it over a veteran (sic) this way since Frank Robinson tried to catch Matt LeCroy and got all teary-eyed because he couldn't. At least in that case, Frank was a Hall of Famer (as player not manager), and LeCroy had a solid major league career behind him. With Riggleman and Orr, neither is true.

Anonymous said...


Sounds like your strategy for winning that bet was some inside information that Nats planned to shut down Lannan? That did not come through at the time of the post.....revisionist history or just deceit on your part....either way not a nice approach to making bets with friends.

Lannan is not an Ace agreed but he his neither a #4 or #5 on say the Phils or Dodges. As you said he is what he is.......but the stats say a 200 IP with a under 4.10 ERA on the worst team in baseball with the worst Defense possible. I'll take that for now and hope that Rizzo addresses the Defense and Pull Pen and Adds #1 and #2/3 starter such that Lannan can be a 15 game winner as the #2 or #3 guy next year.

Dave Nichols said...

"I'll take that for now and hope that Rizzo addresses the Defense and Pull Pen and Adds #1 and #2/3 starter such that Lannan can be a 15 game winner as the #2 or #3 guy next year."

since it was an anonymous comment, i feel ok making a point here. see, this is the problem with the Nationals fan base. a 15-game winner in the major leagues is a #1 starter.

there are currently just 5 pitchers in the NL with 15 wins. with starters having just two starts remaining this season, there are 12 pitchers with 13 or more.

say half those reach 15. that gives you 11 pitchers with 15 or more wins, less than one per team in the N.L.

besides: wins is a lousy way to judge a pitcher's performance. just sayin'

Steven said...

well, and all this about Lannan goes back to a comment I made that he's not really what you want as your #3 to be a contender. I consider myself an John Lannan fan, but look at the top 3 pitchers on playoff and World Series teams. He's clearly a notch below.

And really we're talking about a guy with 3.7 K/9. If it's DISSING him to say that, then people are due for a really serious Lannan disappointment in 2010.

flippin said...

I'm just glad the Nats are making it easy for Rizzo to allow Riggleman to "explore other baseball opportunities" at the end of the season. If the Nats finished strong (relatively, of course), we'd spend the holiday months twisting in the wind along with Riggleman. I hope his firing is as soon after the final out as possible. As for Pete Orr, he's Canadian and it's real easy to spell his name.

flippin said...

Hell, why wait:

SUSasskuash said...

I'm surprised that, "Sure, Kerry Wood can go 133 pitches- no problem!" isn't on your list of famous last words.