Jason Hammel: An Early Surprise

There is really no secret to winning baseball. It is simply a matter of scoring more runs than the other team, and there are two ways to do that. Either to straight out out slug them or to prevent them from scoring runs. The second is by far the more tried and true formula of winning baseball as it is easier to score two or three runs a night and win than it is to have to score five or six runs a night. It should come as little surprise then that the Orioles have a winning record at 11-7 built off of the fact that they have allowed the fourth fewest amount of runs per game in the AL.

The Orioles have allowed an average of 4.00 runs a game and the pitching staff as a total has an ERA of 3.29, which also ranks 4th in the AL, and a FIP of 3.92 which shows that this type of pitching might be sustainable from the Orioles. The one pitcher that has been the biggest surprise for the Orioles is Jason Hammel who with the Rockies was never thought as anything more than a pitch to contact pitcher.

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How not to save a game

It’s not often that I bother to stay up and watch west coast games in their entirety anymore these days, especially on work nights, but I’m glad I did last night.  The Braves scored three runs in the ninth inning, and came from behind to beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and finish up a 5-2 west coast trip.

In all fairness, Brian McCann’s line drive to Javy Guerra’s jaw isn’t what technically blew the save, but no out was recorded on the play.  It was Dan Uggla’s bloop single to right that knotted the game up right after it, and in was likely his last-ever plate appearance in L.A., Chipper Jones’ single to right which gave the Braves the lead.

So in a little bit of personal bias here, a mocking salute to the Dodgers ‘pen, for blowing a save in memorable fashion.  And a legitimate salute to the Braves bullpen, whom between Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters <3 and Craig Kimbrel, struck out six consecutive Dodgers, in a demonstration of unfunny dominance.

The Long Road Back

June 26, 2005 the Washington Nationals were set to continue a summer run that had them leading the NL East and looking like they would make baseball’s post-season in just their first season in DC. Things, though, were about to change. With the visiting Blue Jays leading the Nats 5-3 in the bottom of the 7th with Junior Spivey and Nick Johnson on base Vinny Castilla would hit a double into one of the deep gaps of RFK stadium and both Spivey and Johnson would score. However when Nick Johnson scored he also landed funny on the plate and ended up missing a good chunk of the rest of the season with a bruised heel.

It was the last thing the 2005 Washington Nationals needed. Nick Johnson, and his knack for taking walks and getting on base, was the only true offensive threat for the Washington Nationals. For the rest of the season the one run games that the Nats had made a habit of winning turned into one run loses and the lack of offense was simply something they could never over come down the stretch.

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The Bullpen Usage of Davey Johnson

With Drew Storen out Davey Johnson has employed a rather interesting tactic to keep his bullpen fresh. Instead of simply inserting Henry Rodriguez or Brad Lidge as the closer. Davey has instead gone with what he calls an A and B bullpen. That means some days Mattheus will set up for Lidge and on other days Clippard will set up for Rodriguez. It is assumed that once Storen gets back the bullpen will return to a more normal usage with H-Rod in the 7th, Clippard for the 8th, and Storen for the 9th, but for now we are seeing Davey alternating his bullpen with the idea of keeping everyone fresh.

I was thinking of comparing this style of bullpen usage to Fredi Gonzalez who is able to use the same relievers on a nightly basis because of their health, but there is one issue with that. The Braves are 0-0 in extra inning games whereas the Nationals are 3-1. The Braves and Nationals have both played 16 games, but Nationals pitchers have been asked to pitch 51 and 1/3 innings in relief while the Braves have pitched 46 innings in relief. This despite the face that Nationals starters have pitched 98 and 2/3 innings compared to the Braves 92 and 2/3 innings pitched. The Nationals have simply been asked to pitch more innings than the Braves making this comparison void.

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Don’t Go Down K Street After Dark

For fans of the baseball club in Washington DC
K Street is a place of whimsy and cheer,
but for those out of town visitors who dare
to wander the avenue at night it is a place
of dread and fear.

The visages of K Street haunt and claw
any batter unlucky enough to walk
K Street after dark.

Stand ready and brave in the batters box they will
when a fastball checks in chin level to
any courage and resolve they thought they might have.
Then out of an arm slot that looks quite the same
a curve ball will flinch them and drop at the knees.

Helpless and hopeless they turn and sulk
back to the dugout and the shared misery
of all the victims K Street has claimed.

K Street Cook Out

Perhaps this is a first in a series on the Nats pitchers as food items or maybe I forget about it or am not creative enough to do anymore. Either way we are going to start off with the top three in the rotation and ascribe a food item to them that embodies their pitching style.

Stephen Strasburg

Despite the fact that Strasburg is only going to pitch around 160 innings on the year and miss all of September he is still the Nats Ace and as the Ace he needs a special food item. The most common food that has been given to Strasburg is a Strasburger, but that is not creative. To understand what Strasburg would be as a food item it is important to understand what Strasburg is and what types of pitches he features. Strasburg always brings the heat with a fastball in the high 90’s, a change-up that is faster than many pitchers’ fastball at 90, and a swift darting mid 80’s curve. Strasburg can also through a 2-seam fastball that turns lumber into dust in short order.

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Morning in Natstown Doesn’t Fix the Marks of the Past

What mighty contests rise from trivial things –Alexander Pope

Last night and far the past few nights I have been pondering my current condition of confusion. Normally at this time of year I would be writing a blog post expressing some mild displeasure at the Nats slow start and how even the worst teams in baseball get to enjoy winning stretches at some point or another. It just so happens that the Nationals are off to their best start since moving to the district and one of the best starts as a franchise period. I have to admit this has me a bit perplexed.

The Nationals are currently 10-3 and lead the NL in most significant pitching categories and that is the reason for the hot start. Truthfully if the Nationals had the pitching they have in the recent past then their 3.77 runs a game might have their record closer to .500 if not slightly below, but the Nationals don’t have a staff that is anywhere close to their previous years. The Nationals staff is a power pitching staff anchored by a rotation that averages what might be the highest fastball velocity in baseball history and backed up by a bullpen that rarely allows a ball out of the infield.

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