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April vs. May

Thoughts while waiting for a new water heater to be installed on my day off.

Who's concerned when they hear "Shawn Hill" and "elbow" and "second opinion" in the same sentence?

Who's concerned when they hear "Ryan Wagner" and "James Andrews" in the same sentence?

Back-to-back shutouts: With seven games left in this homestand, it's worth noting that the last time the Nationals suffered consecutive shutouts - last May 16-17 at the Cubs - they averaged 4.1 runs per game over their next seven games, and won seven of their next nine. When it happened in September of 2005 to St. Louis, they also averaged 4.1 runs in their next seven games and went 4-3. I am absolutely willing to buy into the "tip-your-cap-to-Penny-and-Lowe" theory and move on.

Good to see Luis Ayala yesterday. I think it's important, though, to keep in mind we're not likely to see the Ayala of 2005 (68 appearances, 2.66 ERA) consistently this year. His velocity is up to 90 mph now, not 93, but guys coming back from ligament replacement surgery notoriously have days when they feel great, then days when their arm is just dead. Give him some leeway this year.

Also: When Ayala comes back - and Jim Bowden said he expects him to take the full 30 days once he's assigned to rehab - what do you do with the bullpen? Who gets sent down?

The obvious statistical choice is Levale Speigner because he's got an 8.39 ERA and has walked 18 men in 24-2/3 innings. But remember, this isn't about this season. If the Nationals try to pass Speigner through waivers and/or offer him back to the Twins, they could lose him. This season should be about growing the largest pool of potential major league pitchers they can possibly get. It appears that they have new candidates in Jesus Colome and Winston Abreu and the already-partly-proven Saul Rivera. (Best thing about Abreu - 14 strikeouts and two walks in 13-1/3 innings.)

Couldn't Speigner, potentially, work through those problems and be one of the guys in the mix? I tend to think they won't get rid of him.

OK, let's wrap up May a day early, because by tomorrow there could be actual news to write about. We'll compare the Nationals' April and May performances.

Hitting: (numbers in parentheses are rank in 16-team National League during that month)

April record: 9-17; May record: 12-15

Runs/game: 3.12 in April (16); 4.07 in May (13)
Batting average: .234 in April (16); .241 in May (15)
On-base percentage: .315 in April (13); .305 in May (16)
Slugging percentage: .332 in April (16); .367 in May (16)
Home runs: 12 in April (T15); 19 in May (T13)

Pitching:

ERA: 4.59 in April (15); 4.42 in May (9)
Opponent batting average: .256 in April (8); .267 in May (10)
Opponent on-base percentage: .345 in April (13); .326 in May (8)
Opponent slugging percentage: .430 in April (13); .415 in May (10)
Walks: 123 in April (1); 80 in May (T12)
Strikeouts: 151 in April (12); 148 in May (T15)
Blown saves: 5 in April (1); 3 in May (T7)
Save percentage: 45.5 percent in April (16); 70 percent in May (9)

That's it for now. As I said, I'm off tonight, back to see Jake Peavy vs. Matt Chico tomorrow, off Saturday (but going to game to sit in the stands), then working again Sunday. Another perfect day for a ballgame. Head out there. You never know. You might see them score a run.

(Oh, and the podcast is back today after its hiatus. The gamer has a few items about pitchers the Nationals will or might face in coming weeks. And the notebook has your Shawn Hill update, not to mention a Luis Ayala update, and look along the side for your Ryan Wagner stuff in Personnel Dept.)

One more thing I almost forgot. I'll be on "Washington Post Live" from 5-6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet tonight, and I believe we're trying to get Manny Acta to be on from RFK. If not him, then a Nationals player. So hopefully, we'll get to talk a little (read: a lot) of baseball.

One more update: The Nationals signed right-hander Brad Peacock yesterday. A big deal? Well, in a world in which they're trying to collect pitching, it's worth a mention. Peacock was a "draft-and-follow" from last year's draft. That's a practice where a club takes a kid in a low round -- in this case, the 41st -- doesn't sign them but watches his progress over the ensuing year. Peacock was touted by Nationals' officials as perhaps a fifth-round talent. From Palm Beach Central High, he went to Palm Beach Community College this year and was due to serve as the closer there.

This isn't as significant a draft-and-follow as Max Scherzer, the Scott Boras client who was a first-round pick with the Diamondbacks last year and signed with Arizona at the last minute before last night's deadline, but in an organization that -- and I'm stealing a line here from someone -- needs "pitching, pitching, pitching," it's probably the right thing to do.

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 31, 2007; 11:12 AM ET
 
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