Washington Nationals: First Half Ends in Depressing Fashion

Jordan Zimmermann deserved better yesterday, but that is going to happen when a pitcher is as good as him. He has pitched like an Ace this year. He is in the top 30 in MLB in multiple pitching categories, including 9th in WAR at 2.8, 9th in ERA at 2.63, 9th in FIP at 2.71, and 13th in K/BB at 3.55. Jordan Zimmermann has been a monster this season, and yesterday was the first complete game of his career, but it also happened to be a loss. While looking down the MLB rankings to find out how good Jordan Zimmermann has been there was another name always around his, Dan Haren.

Dan Haren was acquired by the Angels for games exactly like yesterdays. Jordan Zimmermann lost because of an unearned run that scored on a GIDP. I can’t imagine a worse way to give up a run. Especially the losing run. But I didn’t find this game nearly as frustrating as all the one run loses in May where the Nationals would seemingly have double digit base runners every night and fail to score. The Nationals best opportunity to score yesterday came in the 9th inning with Ryan Zimmerman on third and Michael Morse at the plate. The main difference between a good offense and a bad offense is opportunities. The Nationals created a total of one opportunity in that game and failed. If Jordan Zimmermann can pitch this well again it will be hard for the Nationals to lose like they did against the Angels.

The most important axiom of sports is that two teams are trying to win, and while losing isn’t fun the way the team is losing has to be part of the equation. The Nationals are trying to become a contending team, and in order to be a contending team they first have to be a competitive team. The Nationals are 13-15 in one run games and 5-7 in blowouts. Just to get an idea of this in 2010 the Nationals were 19-30 in blowout games. That means 49 of their 162 games were decided by four or more runs. The Nationals are currently on pace to play in just 24 such lopsided games. On the other hand in 2010 they played in 48 one run games and were 20-28. They are currently on pace to play in 56 such games. The Nationals this season look to be a more competitive team and have in fact outscored their opponents 314 to 310.

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An Argument that goes Against the Nature of Baseball

I wasn’t even going to address this argument because it was made by Jason Reid, but I keep seeing people repeating it as if it were fact. People keep saying that Davey Johnson might have a problem managing because the last time he did it was 11 years ago. I am not sure why this argument exists. It is an argument that goes against everything that baseball stands for. Baseball is about timelessness. There is a thought in every baseball fans mind that it would be great to see Babe Ruth bat against Roy Halladay, or what if Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige did get to play in the majors in their primes. If John McGraw’s ghost could come back and manage for a season it might do a pretty good job.

In 1905 Christy Mathewson pitched 338.2 innings and had 32 complete games, and this is what has changed most about baseball in over 100 years. The relief pitcher has got to be the biggest on field change to the way baseball is played now and the way it was then. In total the 1905 Giants had six pitchers, and five of them are listed as starters with only one listed as a reliever and having pitched on 38.1 innings in the 1905 season. But in my mind it wouldn’t take the ghost of John McGraw long to understand how relief pitching works. It really isn’t like it is a complicated thing.

A good evaluator of talent will be able to see when the starting pitcher is tiring or when he is giving up too many hard hit balls and know the time to take him out. Managing isn’t rocket science and better players make it even easier. How much managing did Charlie Manuel do last night as Cliff Lee pitched his third complete game shutout in a row?

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The Art of the Fan

There are few things in this world I look forward to more than one day sitting in the stands with my future child and enjoying a baseball game. At the same time there are few things I enjoy less than sitting in the stands at a baseball game with other people’s children. I have decided then I will write a few simple tenants of how I believe one should be a baseball fan. That way my future child can one day look at this and learn what they should do in order to truly enjoy a baseball game without annoying the crap out of everyone around them.

You won’t die of thirst nor will your bladder explode during an AB

I am not really giving any order to these, but this is very important. Parents like to give into their children. I don’t really understand why. The cases of just plain bad parenting I see at a baseball game are more than anywhere else, but if you are going to let your kid cry it out in the grocery store when they want to have a candy bar do the same at a baseball game when they want to get up in the middle of an AB. Batters these days have so many fidgets and rituals that you have a good five minutes between batters to get yourself and your child out of the isle and up to the concourse. It rude to everyone in the row you are seated in and those in other rows that can’t see through you to get up in the middle of an AB. Unless your kid is about to have a real problem and vomit on the entire row in front of them then they can wait for the AB to be over.

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Should this count?

The answer is obvious, but it’s still provoked some thought to me, in the event that if this were to ever occur.  Clayton Kershaw, once again going the distance, attempting to hold the score at 1-1 with the crosstown Angels, gives up a solo shot to Vernon Wells.

With the Angels now up 2-1, going into the bottom of the 9th inning, the Dodgers are given some blatant breaks with a botched safe call on a stolen base at second, and a botched safe call at the plate, which tied the game, before the Dodgers ended up winning on Tony Gwynn Jr’s walk-off single, but the point remains that the winning pitcher is Clayton Kershaw, and the box scores will only show: W, 9.0 IP, and won’t really tell the story that he essentially blew his own game, and if not being bailed out by the offense and some blatantly missed calls, he instead takes the loss.

The question of if this should count as a BSW though, had Kershaw blown the lead on his own, only for the offense to re-take the lead in the bottom of the 9th, I think I’d lead to the side of logic, despite the irony of crediting a starter going the distance with an unofficial blown save, with the legitimate vulture win.  But it is some food for thought.

This was only one intriguing story of the past weekend.  For me, I saw a weekend of baseball in which this occurred, Jonny Venters fell back to earth in a harsh manner, watched a game where the O’s and Reds combined to pound out nine home runs in a single game, and where the Nationals blew three saves in one game and still managed to win in 14 innings, on top of what Huzzard aptly describes as discovering a baseball mecca.  As the current crop of Ripken baseball academy children grow and eventually graduate high school, I too expect a future in which many kids put Aberdeen, Maryland onto the baseball map.

What is this Place

This past weekend was another long weekend of baseball. After Jim Riggleman quit on the Nationals I was hoping the players would continue to play well and put the focus back where it belonged, and for the most part that did it. They beat the White Sox who until yesterday had last lost an interleague series in 2008 against the Cubs. The gutsy extra inning win on Friday that featured three blown saves for the Nats was really special, and then a 2-1 victory on Sunday where Livan Hernandez continued his resurgence and Danny Espinosa hit another homerun. Espinosa leads all rookies with a .466 SLG, .788 OPS, and has played sparkling defense at second base.

Most of my weekend wasn’t spent watching the Nats. With the Nats on the road and my mission already stated to watch live baseball every weekend until the end of the season I made my way up to Baltimore to watch the Orioles take on the Reds. It was not a good night for Orioles pitching as the Reds beat them 10-5 in a game that saw a total of nine homeruns. It was quite a thing to witness.

The biggest and most important discovery of the weekend didn’t come on Saturday though, and it also wasn’t finding Clint at the D.C. BBQfest. I did start laughing when I saw it was Clint, and I don’t think he liked it very much, but he is Clint. But Clint isn’t important. What is important is Ripken Baseball. When we arrived at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland the gates were not open yet, and after a morning of eating BBQ and drinking free samples of tea we needed to use a restroom. Luckily for us there was a hotel right near the stadium designed to look like the warehouse in Baltimore.

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Why I Hate the White Sox

After the Flood

I am still pissed. I try and plan what I am going to write, and I have said many times before that most of my writing happens in my head. The act of putting words to paper is a simple formality, but I have another style. Pure free flow of the imagination to the illustration. I am just going to open up the floodgate to my brain and let the thoughts flow.

Watching yesterday’s Nats/Mariners game I thought I was going to be sitting here this morning writing about how great it was to watch someone like Michael Pineda pitch. It was even better because I could admire him without his effort costing the Nationals a win, but damn Michael Pineda is awesome, and when he got into trouble he amped it up to a new level of awesomeness. He threw a floating slurving spinning change up that approached hitters at a speed that made them question about five times if they should swing, and then they swung and looked like fools swinging at something in the other batter’s box. His fastball was at 91-92 with nobody on base. Then when someone dared to question his authority and reach base he reared back and threw 95-96. Absolute domination. It was a great thrill to watch Michael Pineda play baseball.

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