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Position by position: The Cordero Question

As promised, let's skip around in our position-by-position series to closer, mostly because those of you who spend time on the Journal at work (horrors!) probably spent their time in pursuit of more worthy endeavors over the weekend. Therefore, Chad Cordero's performance on Friday - and as a refresher, let's review: 0 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, big fat L - is still fresh in the minds of some, especially after a lost weekend in Colorado.

First, I have to give an odd to Chris at Capitol Punishment, who for the last several weeks has done a superior job breaking down Cordero and how he relates to the league. Take a look at Chris's posts, because they're well worth the time, but the overall message is that the guy who (some of) you are freaking out over is actually kind of a normal closer, and everyone - Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, etc. - blows saves.

Yes, Cordero leads the majors in blown saves with eight. Here is a list of the players, as of Monday morning, who trail him with six: Armando Benitez, Francisco Cordero, Brian Fuentes, Brad Lidge, Scott Linebrink, Jon Rauch, Solomon Torres, Jose Valverde and Bob Wickman.

Eliminate the setup men there - Rauch and Linebrink - because they weren't going to finish out the saves that they blew anyway. But Cordero, Fuentes and Valverde were all all-stars this year. Lidge's travails are well-documented, but when I was talking to Astros GM Tim Purpura about his squad heading into next year, he said he felt comfortable that they had a "dominant closer." Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But I think it has a lot to do with how volatile the commodity in general - relief pitching - is. The all-time list for most saves in a single season includes some of the all-time greats (Hoffman and Rivera with 53, John Smoltz with 55, Dennis Eckersley with 51), it also includes some random names (Bobby Thigpen with 57, Randy Myers with 53).

So let's look at the Nationals' situation with regards to the closer position, but digging a little deeper into the bullpen as well.

Chad Cordero
Age: 25
Contract: Won arbitration in 2007 for $4.15 million; arbitration-eligible after 2007 and 2008, free agent after 2009 barring a long-term deal
2007: 62 G/61 IP, 2-3 record, 3.39 ERA, 28 saves, 36 save opp., 8 HR, 22 BB, 45 K
Career: 285 G/302-1/3 IP, 19-14, 2.77 ERA, 119 saves, 142 save opp., 39 HR, 107 BB, 270 K

Luis Ayala
Age: 29
Contract: Earning $1.3 million in second year of a two-year, $2.2-million deal; eligible for arbitration after the 2007 season
2007: 28 G/27-1/3 IP, 0-0 record, 2.63 ERA, 0 saves, 0 save opp., 2 HR, 8 BB, 16 K
Career: 242 G/259-2/3 IP, 24-24, 2.74 ERA, 8 saves, 18 save opp., 23 HR, 50 BB, 165 K

Jon Rauch
Age: 28
Contract: $455,000 in 2007; arbitration-eligible after 2007
2007: 71 G/70-1/3 IP, 8-4 record, 4.09 ERA, 3 saves, 9 save opp., 5 HR, 18 BB, 53 K
Career: 190 G/252-1/3 IP, 20-15, 3.89 ERA, 5 saves, 14 save opp., 29 HR, 90 BB, 203 K

PROSPECTS:
Zechry Zinicola
Age: 22
Class AA Harrisburg
2007: 40 G/54 IP, 0-4 record, 5.83 ERA, 5 saves, 3 HR, 36 BB, 42 K

Adam Carr
Age: 23
Class AA Harrisburg, promoted from Class A Potomac
2007 (totals): 46 G/57-1/3 IP, 4-1 record, 1.73 ERA, 11 saves, 4 HR, 44 BB, 74 K

Others at lower levels could develop, including any of the bevy of the kids at short-season Class A Vermont. (Note to self: Why have you not gone to Burlington, Vt., for story on these kids?)

Cordero earned the full-time closer's job midway through the 2004 season with the Expos, a year after he was drafted from Cal St.-Fullerton. For that reason, I'm going to rack up some stats since June 19, 2004 - the day Cordero got his first save as the full-time closer for Montreal, a job he hasn't relinquished since he came to Washington.

Saves (6/19/04-8/26/07)
1. Trevor Hoffman, 149
2. Joe Nathan, 133
T3. Jason Isringhausen, 132
T3. Francisco Rodriguez, 132
5. Francisco Cordero, 126
6. Mariano Rivera, 123
7. Billy Wagner, 119
8. Chad Cordero, 117
9. Brad Lidge, 115
10. Todd Jones, 112

Blown saves (6/19/04-8/26/07)
1. Francisco Cordero, 29
2. LaTroy Hawkins, 24
3. Scott Linebrink, 23
T4. Chad Cordero, 22
T4. Tom Gordon, 22
T6. Armando Benitez, 20
T6. Jason Isringhausen, 20
T8. Todd Jones, 19
T8. Jose Mesa, 19
T8. David Weathers, 19

I tried to do save percentage, but it doesn't really work because of all the setup men that appear. Cordero, for the record, ranked 25th in baseball during that time at 84.2 percent, but I'm not sure what it means.

I think what all this helps point out is that it makes absolute sense that Cordero's name is bandied about on the trade market. It made sense last winter, it made sense at this trade deadline - and believe me, the Nationals were willing to give him up in the Arizona-Mets three-way deal - and it will make increasing sense as the club moves forward, because each day Cordero's price tag goes up in arbitration, and each day he moves another step closer to free agency.

This much we know: Cordero doesn't have that blow-you-away closer's stuff that Wagner, K-Rod and others have. He doesn't have a signature pitch like Hoffman's changeup or Mariano's cutter or Lidge's slider. But when he's going well, he hides his fastball, it stays straight, and he paints both sides with it.

We know, however, that there are enough times like these - when he's struggling with the fastball - that he simply can't get away with a tailing fastball. His stuff isn't good enough to get away with mistakes. Some Braves hitters have told me, for instance, that they hate hitting against Ayala, and they love for the eighth to end so that Cordero gets in there.

That said, look at that top 10 saves list since mid-2004. The only other guy who hasn't played on a consistent winner in the top 10 is Francisco Cordero.

Others in the system: There's no one on the immediate horizon. I think they like both Rauch and Ayala as setup men. No one else on the major league staff is threatening closer's status. In the minors, scouting director Dana Brown loved Zinicola last year, but he has stumbled this season. Carr has moved from Class A to Harrisburg this season even though he is a converted outfielder. Chris Booker is the closer at Class AAA Columbus, but he has been given the opportunity at the major league level and basically failed.

So there you have it, and have at it. Cordero debate encouraged.

And for those who care to review the events of the weekend, here is the documentation of the Joel Hanrahan experience on Sunday. And for stuff that really matters, Mark Lerner is checking out other ballparks to get ideas, as I wrote in the notebook. Hope y'all saw the Sunday page in the $1.50 edition in which we outlined Mike Rizzo's contributions to the current Arizona Diamondbacks and outlined how that might happen in Washington.

I'll get you lineups late on Monday from Dodger Stadium, where the Mike Bacsik-Derek Lowe matchup awaits.

By Barry Svrluga  |  August 27, 2007; 12:12 AM ET
 
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Next: Nationals' lineup

Comments

So is there any talk of shutting Hanrahan down because of his innings total, a la Lannan?

Hate to kick a man when he's down -- but also hate to torch an arm.

Posted by: Hendo | August 27, 2007 1:10 AM | Report abuse

I have said this about Cordero before... Watching Cordero is like watching graduation day at a drivers ed academy...

I think the reason that fans are frustrated with Cordero is because when he's at his best, you don't feel like he's overwhelming the opposition... you think he just got a lucky 1-2-3 inning. His pitching (and the opponent's hitting) look the same in a 1-2-3 inning and in a blown save.

I think that is an oversimplification, and I think it is probably not the case, ultimately... but it is the way it feels as a spectator.

As for the stats, it is hard to argue with them...

Posted by: Wigi | August 27, 2007 1:47 AM | Report abuse

My feeling is that with very few exceptions - Rivera, Eckersley, Hoffman perhaps - every fan feels that way about their closer, Wigi. I just think it's the nature of the position. The guy comes in with the bases empty and a one or two run lead in the last inning - the most pressure filled time in baseball. Unless he pitches a one,two, three inning, fans feel like they've been put through the ringer. Set up men on the other hand often come in with men on base. When they give up runs, it's usually chalked up to the difficult situation someone else - i.e the previous pitcher - put them in. Fans are more forgiving and excuse failure a little more easily. Because of the "no win" situation that closers are in, it is vital to have someone like Chad who seems to bounce back well and attack hitters.

Like any position on the roster, the Nats should continue to see if there is a way to upgrade their closer. There might be another Hoffman or Rivera out there. But if one were to list every main position for the Nats- starting 8, 5 starting pitchers, 2 set up men and closer - in order of effectiveness and proximity to championship caliber, closer would be in the upper third. The Nats have any other things to worry about first.

Lastly, Barry, I'd love to see Chad's and Randy St. Claire's take on whether Chad needs to add another pitch. I don't know if that's something they'd talk about - particularly in the middle of the season - but I'd like to know if that's being considered.

Posted by: #4 | August 27, 2007 6:17 AM | Report abuse

"...the guy who (some of) you are freaking out over..."

Uh, yea, that would be me. No other player makes me as mad as he does.

And Wigi, you absolutely hit the nail on the head as to why. When Cordero does get the save, it always looks like he just got lucky. His pitching looks exactly the same as when he blows it.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 27, 2007 7:05 AM | Report abuse

... I don't think Chad is as bad or as good as many fans believe. I agree with Barry that he fits in mid-pack in most categories.

... but one thing I'd like to see is how he compares to the group Barry listed, in terms of hits per inning, walks per inning, runners allowed on, pitches thrown. It seems to me those would be key stats when it comes to comparing closers.

Posted by: natscan reduxit | August 27, 2007 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Wide range of emotions this weekend. Well, Friday anyway. As for Chad's specific pitches, stats, percentages, etc, I'll leave that for Barry and the other professionals. I agree that that the stat of "saves" is overrated, but dominant type of pitching needed to attain a save is not. Anyway, here's how I feel about the back end of the team's bullpen:

The Nationals need a guy who throws in the mid to upper-90's and has at least one other dominant pitch (stated as though they grow on trees, or as though every team doesn't need one) to pitch the 9th inning of close games. That's just the way it is. If we had that, we could bump Chad to the 8th inning, Rauch to the 7th, etc. How would Chad feel about being demoted? That's for the front office and Manny to figure out. All you need to know about Chad is what did the teams in pennant races who were trying to land him in a trade want to use him for? Set-up man to their own dominant closer.

Posted by: Matt | August 27, 2007 7:47 AM | Report abuse

I think I've seen Cordero occasionally throwing an offspeed pitch this season. Since it was news in 2005 when he threw something other than a fastball, I'd guess he may be working on the pitch, but it's hard to introduce a new pitch midseason.

Also, in September 2005, I printed out an article from the Fredericksburg paper (September 23 "Worn-down Cordero staying upbeat) where Cordero says a mechanical flaw was bothering him. This was after he was more or less shut down for the season, for a weak shoulder or overwork. He said he was drifting to the right, and his fastball was tailing back over the plate, and he wasn't locating it where he wanted it. It sounds a bit like his current problem.

Could the workload be part of the issue here? Cordero's appeared in 62 games this season. Papelbon thought about going into the Red Sox starting rotation after he'd pitched in 59 games last season. (Interesting, and perhaps ironic, that the Red Sox were rumored to be interested in trading for Cordero when Papelbon said he didn't want to close.)

Posted by: Sect 422 | August 27, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

While the statistics do say a lot, there are so many muddling factors embedded in them that it's hard to prove anything conclusively one way or the other by citing them. I think this is why a lot of people drop back to the "gut feel" level when they make their personal evaluation of Cordero, and it's hard to deny the collective gut feel out there that has earned him the moniker of Cardiac Cordero.

Here's what I mean about the statistics being all muddled up. This year in particular, Chad has been used in a lot of instances that were not by definition save situations. He has pitched in a setup role coming back off bereavement leave, he has pitched the ninth in games the Nats were losing (and sometimes losing very badly) just because Manny needed to get him some work, he has pitched the ninth in home games that were tied just in the hope that the Nats would score in the bottom of the ninth to pull out the game. Heck, even when he was brought in last Friday night it was not a save situation by definition since the Nats were up by four. So there are a lot of innings shown in those stats that are not "closer innings" for Chad. Could we see a breakdown of exactly how Chad has performed when he entered the game as a closer, i.e. in a save situation? That would be interesting to see, but even then it wouldn't tell us much, because for comparative purposes we'd need to see the same data on every other closer in the league, and as Barry has pointed out it's hard enough just to figure out the allocation of saves and save opportunites what with the possibility of setup men getting saves, etc, etc. Doing an inning-by-inning situational breakdown on every so-called closer in the league would be a nightmare, and probably not worth doing.

This is why a lot of people tend to discount the statistics, either consciously or unconsciously, and instead look at other factors when evaluating closers - dominant stuff, the right temperament, ability to bounce back, other intangibles. Chad has the temperament, he has the ability to bounce back. We've all seen that. But we've also all seen that he doesn't have dominant stuff. He relies on pinpoint control, and sometimes that's not there. He never blows anyone away, which is why those of us who watch him are on the edge of our seats every time he comes out of the bullpen and steps on the mound. All the statistics in the world are never going to change that.

My personal opinion on Chad is that he's good enough for now, for where the Nats are and where they'll be next year. I have reservations about how well he'll do in the new park, since I see a lot of long fly ball outs from him in RFK. Will those balls land in the seats in the new park? We won't know 'til we get there. Might as well stick with Chad until we can find out. As it is now, he lives life on the edge since he doesn't have dominating stuff, but seems to survive a good percentage of the time. He'll be even closer to the edge in the smaller confines on South Capitol Street, but who knows? Maybe he'll up his game and be able to survive there too. Until then, the stats do show that he's a better than average relief pitcher on a team that needs a good bullpen because even its best starter is never guaranteed to go more than six innings. So he's worth keeping just on that account, or for trading if a good offer comes along.

Posted by: Section 419 | August 27, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Here's a spreadsheet with all closers who've had 35 saves or more over the last 3 years.
http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pxi52ch9hTlJhorF4Hy5FLQ

With the exception of homers allowed per game, Cordero leads the middle of the pack on just about everything.

Posted by: Chris | August 27, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

As much as I like him - and I do like him - I would trade Cordero in a heartbeat if I could fill a more pressing need. What constitutes a more pressing need? A power hitting starter somewhere in the lineup, a leadoff hitter with good OBP, a healthy and reliable starting pitcher, or three prospects of high quality.

Although Cordero has had success in other ball parks, he will have less success at the new park than at RFK. I have several vivd memories of balls hit just shy of the CF wall in 05 and 06. This year there have been too many definitive shots hit over the wall at bad times.

The number of blown saves are troubling. One major reason he sits among the top 10 on Barry's list is that he has been healthy enough to amass enough games to save. Is he top 10 in effectiveness? (I would be suprised. I think the answer is no.)

Don't trade him for too little. But if you can get a 30 HR bat or a solid number 2 pitcher (33+ starts/yr, <4.00 ERA), do it.

Posted by: NatBisquit | August 27, 2007 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Sure evaluating a closer is more complicated that a couple of stats, just like any player. However, he gets paid big bucks to come in in close games and finish them and that's a save and Cordero is middle of the pack at doing his core job. He's not elite, he's average. But that's average in a very tough role against good competition.

He would be an acceptable closer on most teams. Frankly, I don't care how many hits or walks he gives up, I care if we win the game and we do that as much w/ Cordero as other teams do w/ their closer. His $4m is a decent deal for a middle of the pack closer. He'll get a raise in arb because he has decent stats this year.

I think we should focus on the outfield which is awful and 2B which isn't any better. We will never get to the playoffs w/ this outfield, barring big turnarounds in all four of them. But we could go to the playoffs w/ Cordero closing, we could win a World Series w/ him closing. Plenty of teams have done well in the playoffs w/ worse closers.

He's fine and they should keep him. If s dominant guy comes along in the farm system or FA, great, in the mean time he will be very hard to beat as a closer.

Posted by: mlwagnercpa | August 27, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Barry trumped me by five minutes, so in case you missed the GB/A here it is:

A discouraging finish to the week, no doubt, but a glance at the numbers shows it isn't really so bad at all. Most encouraging, the Nats can now have a losing record and STILL be better than the '06 Nats. We only need to go 14-17 over the remaining 31 games to make 72 wins for the season. So that's one from each of the ten remaining series and four more scattered here or there.

We're 12-13 for August now, so let's make this series against the Dodgers count. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a 9.5 game better record than us Nats and are tied with the Rockies, but I've got a suspicion the air in the City of Angels is not nearly so light, dry, and clean. So in anticipation for some moving on up (only one game behind that team in Maryland) here's this week's GB/A, which most certainly shows that the Nats are not the worst team in history and not even the worst team in baseball.

Before we start, though, copy this down:

Florida Marlins
Pro Player Stadium
2267 Dan Marino Blvd.
Miami, FL 33056

Write them a thank you letter for losing 12 out of their last 14 games in order to put and keep us in fourth place in the NL East. What selfless gentlemen!

30. Tampa Bay (51-79), .392 (-6.5)
29. Chi Sox (56-74), .431 (-1.5)
28. Florida (57-74), .435 (-1)
26. Kansas City (57-72), .442 (0)
26. Pittsburgh (57-72), .442 (0)
24. Houston (58-73), .443 (0)
24. NATS!!! (58-73), .443 (--)
23. Texas (58-72), .446 (.5)
22. Baltimore (58-71), .450 (1)
21. San Francisco (59-72), .450 (1)
20. Cincinnati (60-70), .462 (2.5)
19. Oakland (65-67), .492 (6.5)

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I hate to sound like a moneyballer, but the key stat might be his salary. 4mil might be ok for a middle of the pack closer, but that is going to keep going up and at a much faster rate that the Nats payroll will be increasing. Thus at some point he is going to meet a cost/benefit tipping point (if he hasn't already)and become either expendable or an outright liability. Where that point is will be decided by Bowden/Kasten, but I think we can conjecture that they are going to want to move him sooner rather than later and move to Rauch or Ayala as the near term "fix" until another option becomes available within the organization.

What are the organizations options if they decide he isn't worth the money anymore? We can't non-tender him, but is it possible to let him go via FA and get the draft pick or is a trade the only way to return value on Cordero?

Posted by: estuartj | August 27, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Three statistics that I don't have available stand out in my mind when thinking of Cordero:

a) # of pitches per inning pitched;
b) % of innings pitched that are 1-2-3
c) # of runners allowed on 3rd with less than 2 outs.

Of these, for a Closer, I think (b) is the most relevant, but (a) is especially germane for being able to pitch back-to-backs and to give the opponent fewer chances to study your pitches. The deeper the counts, the more pitches thrown, the more the advantage shifts to the batting team.

One mark of a good Closer to me is that he doesn't putz around. "Get in, get out, get ready for the next game."

Quite simply, Cardiac Cordero does NOT do this. I love his heart, and hope he bounces back, AND hope he develops an out pitch.

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | August 27, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

chris schroder has the stuff to be a closer. electric fastball and a good slider. i'd like to see him get a shot to not only pitch in some close games but to close some out this september

Posted by: love | August 27, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"is it possible to let him go via FA and get the draft pick or is a trade the only way to return value on Cordero?"

No. Cordero is still under team control until the end of the 2009 season at which point he can become a free agent. The only way he could become a free agent would be if the Nationals non-tendered him thus forfeiting any draft pick compensation.

Posted by: Brian | August 27, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Oh, re: other players,
I personally think Ayala has the nastiest stuff on the staff. When he's throwing well (which has taken a little while, but) his ball jumps all over the plate (and that's on TV). Live, standing behind the plate, it seems impossible to know where the ball is going. To me, he's the best "Save-ior" on the staff because he is going to get a K 50% of the time, and a ground ball 25%.

Colome has a similar style that induces more swing-and-misses. Ray King is (usually) great for getting that lefty K or bouncer.

I like Rauch, and think he's been overworked. He was on fire in May-June-July and really was getting 1-2-3 innings with 2 Ks regularly. The frequency of 1-2-3 innings with fewer pitches made him more available the next night. Then August hit...

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | August 27, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Are closers overrated? How many times do we bring in Rauch, Schroder, King, or Ayala when the game is within three points to shut things down for an inning. Isn't that what the closer does, with the exception that it's the last inning?

It seems like the closer's role is more psychological than anything else. And in that case, Chad's head being right is far more valuable than his average stuff.

Why even have a closer?

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"I'd love to see Chad's and Randy St. Claire's take on whether Chad needs to add another pitch."

That's just it. Did he ever truly have one -- ONE -- dominant pitch in the beginning? Somebody else above talked about their frustration over seeing Chad do just as well with what appeared to be the same type of stuff he threw on Friday. I totally agree with that.

Which begs the question, are opposing batters just finally able to figure him out? A lot of times, I've seen his first-pitch strikes that batters in the past have taken that have gone straight down the middle. Maybe batters just finally figured out that that was his more-often-than-not first pitch, and pounced on him?

Dunno why I'm even commenting on this -- it brings back the bile from Friday night.

Posted by: Juan-John | August 27, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Here's something else I'd be interested in: does Chad's effectiveness depend entirely on the umpire calling his "pinpoint" command? You get an ump that calls borderline pitches strikes that would inflate the perception of Cordero as a command-guy. Get someone calling them balls, all of a sudden his weak stuff has to go deeper into the zone.

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

My sentiments exactly. I've long debated this topic with friends of mine who, unfortunately for the quality of debate, feel the same way. Unless you have a guy like a Hoffman, Rivera, etc that a the closer doesn't need to be a dedicated role. Granted, it does provide a sense of definition and order to things, but it also puts you into some pretty difficult positions. You get yourself into a situation where ego and title box you in. If for instance, Manny were to start using Ayala more in the 8th inning as the primary setup guy and move Rauch to the 6th or 7th as necessary, it might go unnoticed everywhere but in our little world here. However, if he were to say Chad's not getting it done right now we're going with Ayala in the 9th, because of the "Closer's Role" that becomes note/news worthy, ESPN etc picks up on it, and all of sudden it's a story. Not that big of a deal really unless you're a young manager trying to figure out the complex recipe of a big league clubhouse where big $$$ and big egos are involved.

If however, they were to use a closer by committee approach it would allow them to go with the hot hand. You'd have a situation where 3 or 4 guys would have to get themselves mentally ready every night to potentially be the guy in the 9th. And who's to say you need to go with someone in the 9th anyway? If a guy comes in and rocks the 7th/8th and you don't need to pinch hit for him to add insurance runs, let him stay in for the 9th.

I'm a huge fan of the closer if you have a guy who can slam the door night after night. But I think it's unnecessary and can handcuff you as a manager if you try to force someone into that role for the sake of having a "closer".

-------------

Are closers overrated? How many times do we bring in Rauch, Schroder, King, or Ayala when the game is within three points to shut things down for an inning. Isn't that what the closer does, with the exception that it's the last inning?

It seems like the closer's role is more psychological than anything else. And in that case, Chad's head being right is far more valuable than his average stuff.

Why even have a closer?

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 10:18 AM

Posted by: MKevin | August 27, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Some more Cordero commentary:

Comparisons of this year's stats to his career numbers present much of what this crowd is saying: Cordero hasn't been his usual (which is still a little heart-fluttering).

His stats above come out to:
Career: .74Ks/inn, .36BBs/inn, .13HRs/inn
2007: .89Ks/inn, .35BBs/inn, .13HRs/inn

I haven't seen the comparison batting averages.

As Barry mentioned, if Cordero gets out of Friday's game without an ER, his ERA is 2.51 - instead it is 3.36 now. His numbers this year are similar to his career except the important Ks/inning, which is down.

Like I said before, I'd love to see his # of pitches per inning, and would guarantee that it is higher this year than previously!

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | August 27, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

One of the few things that I think Moneyball gets exactly right is how much closers are overvalued in the game. And how much a save is an overvalued stat. One of the things Billy Beane did to build up the A's was trade his 'star' closers at the top of their statistical game and he'd end up getting guys who contributed a lot more to the team than he lost by sending the overvalued closer away. That past success, along with the fact that having an average closer doesn't do the Nats much good right now really shows why Cordero was and should be number 1 on our trade block.

Posted by: NoVA Nat | August 27, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

McGeary and Smoker have been added to the Vermont roster and will probably get som "junk" innings before the season ends Sept. 7.

Barry has to get up there top get a look at our 2011 starting rotation.

Posted by: estuartj | August 27, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Cordero is just as effective (or ineffective if you're a "glass half-empty" person) at home as he is away. Before this season:

Home:
8-6, 2.78 ERA, 52 Saves, 9 Blown Saves, 16 HR, 119.2 IP

Away:
8-5, 2.52 ERA, 38 Saves, 6 Blown Saves, 14 HR, 110.2 IP

There is no reason to believe that he will be any worse/better at the new ballpark than at RFK.

In fact ... his career stats at three of the most hitter-friendly parks (Wrigley, Citizens Bank Park and the Great American Ballpark):

3-1, 1.96 ERA, 10 Saves, 3 Blown Saves, 3 HR, 36.2 IP

Before I throw him under the bus this year or next, I'd like to see how he handles pitching in the new park. I think he's got the mentality of a closer and Friday night's debacle won't effect him much.

And Barry ... I don't think that's fair of you to say that Chris Booker has "been given the opportunity at the major league level and basically failed."

He has been called upon three times this season. The first was in the 14th inning in Philly (a game in which Chad blew it in the 9th). He gave up a two-run shot to Ryan Howard (who hasn't?). His next appearance was in the 6th inning again against Philly where he faced two batters and got them both out. His final appearance was against the Rockies. He came on in the bottom of the 7th, faced one batter and struck him out. How has this failed? Manny/JimBow are so set in their ways when it comes to relievers, it's almost impossible for anybody to get playing time in real crunch-time situations (see also Chris Schroder). Let's call Booker up in September, give him a few 8th or 9th inning situations (maybe even a save situation or two since that's what he's used to in AAA), then let's decide whether or not he's failed.

The Rockies series hurts. But now they're on to LA. The Dodgers played last night in NY and flew across country to play a game tonight against the Nats. Let's hope that they are a bit tired and the Nats can jump on them early and often. Let's take 2 of 3 from the Dodgers and come home with at least a split of the 10 game road trip!

Posted by: e | August 27, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Are you tapping into my brain this AM? If so can you tell me where the F--- I left my keys last night?

Umpires have FAR to much impact on the outcome of the game with the way they call balls and strikes. There really needs to be a system other than grading and post game review to keep umpires accountable for an accurate strike zone. Grading and/or consequences after the fact have no impact on the game at hand.

I say we take the balls/strikes call out of the umpires hands. Let them call things like swing, fair/foul, out/safe, etc and put an electronic strike zone into effect. This is 2007 after all. It's a radical change that of course would never happen but really... tennis has been using computers and laser sight lines to judge serves for years!

--------------

Here's something else I'd be interested in: does Chad's effectiveness depend entirely on the umpire calling his "pinpoint" command? You get an ump that calls borderline pitches strikes that would inflate the perception of Cordero as a command-guy. Get someone calling them balls, all of a sudden his weak stuff has to go deeper into the zone.

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 10:40 AM

Posted by: MKevin | August 27, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

My final post on this subject (well, maybe not):

While having a closing rotation helps structure the bullpen's workload and preparation, I don't think it has to be a hard and fast rule.

I think manager's get too stuck in the "save situations only" for a Closer, which is ridiculous. Which is also why I support Acta bringing in Chief on Friday (and should've taken him out at least 1 batter but probably 2 earlier).

Fundamentally, however:
Closers are overrated. More important are the "Save-iors" that get you out of the 5-6-7-8th inning jams with guys on base or in scoring position (especially less than 2 outs). Find a stat that gives these guys their due, and watch the Closer "save" stats (starting an inning with no one on base) shrink in relevance.

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | August 27, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

MKevin, they're in the pockets of the pants you changed out of when you got home yesterday.

I would love to have a more formal system for giving feedback to umpires. I disagree with being able to review the call, but after the game, they ought to tell the umps "look, you were blowing the low strike, get it together" or "there's no way that's a strike". If umpires consistently have a terrible rating (like 35% bad calls over a five year period) they should be fired. We don't want umps being too jittery to call the game and we don't want the pitchfork wielding fans (and Bobby Cox) running the show, but we do need to get rid of C.B. Buckner, et al.

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

That would explain why the dryer sounded like we loaded it with bricks last night!

Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't MLB already routinely review games and grade umpires based on their performance? I think that has to be part of it but my problem with any reactive measure like that is it can't do anything for the game at hand.

How many times can you point back to a 3rd strike that didn't get called that changed the nature of an at-bat that put a runner on base that extended an inning that eventually lead to a run being scored? Baseball is so situational and each call has such an impact on the next play that I've long felt that there is little to no room for the human error factor. Maybe this is a result of listening to Don Sutton rail against the umpire crew this weekend for not calling the low strike or the breaking balls that cross the plate in the strikezone but are below by the time they hit the catchers mitt called balls but maybe it's time for something drastic to change.

Baseball has a defined strikezone. It's written in the rules. Everyone knows what it's supposed to be. If the guys behind the plate can't or won't call it then put a system in place that will.

Posted by: MKevin | August 27, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"Are closers overrated? How many times do we bring in Rauch, Schroder, King, or Ayala when the game is within three points to shut things down for an inning. Isn't that what the closer does, with the exception that it's the last inning?

It seems like the closer's role is more psychological than anything else. And in that case, Chad's head being right is far more valuable than his average stuff.

Why even have a closer?

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | August 27, 2007 10:18 AM"
____
506, you just said what I've been thinking but couldn't figure out how to artciculate it. Would it be so sacrilege to rotate our strong bullpen guys in and out of the "closer's" job?. Everyone of them have had enough "Hell Ya" shut-downs to convince me. Or is that just going too far beyond the whole, "It's Just The Way We Do It!"?

Posted by: NatsNut | August 27, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

RE Today's gamer, and Hanrahan needing GoogleEarth to find the strike zone: How does this fit in to the discussion about Schneider's handling of the pitching staff, seeing as how Brian was sitting this one out? Would he have prevented any of this?

Posted by: cevans | August 27, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I personally believe that some closers are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have closers and I believe that our game of baseball like such as in Japan and the Iraq everywhere like such as and I believe they should our game over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help Japan or should help the Iraq and Asian countries so we will be able to build up our closers for us.

Posted by: Miss Teen South Carolina | August 27, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The idea of not having a closer is an interesting one. (Except for when Smoltz had the job, Bobby Cox has been doing that for years, only not on purpose.)
Nearly 30 years ago, Chuck Tanner, then Pirates manager, had the idea of not having starters. No one would ever pitch more than three innings. Pitchers would be rested and available more often and, in some cases, batters would not get a second look at a pitcher in a game. In a whacky kind of way, it made sense. At least it sounded like it made sense when Chuck talked about it, which was all the time for awhile. But I don't think he ever actually tried it.
The thing about a closer is that he faces more pressure than anyone else in sports. Think about it. A field goal kicker with no time on the clock faces enormous pressure as does a guy on the foul line, taking one free throw that will determine the game. But they either do it or don't and it's over. A closer faces the same sort of pressure pitch after pitch after pitch.
A closer must have the confidence or guts or whatever to come back the night after being shelled not just thinking but knowing he can get people out. Rivera is famous for that. Some people think he's forgotten a blown save before he gets to the dugout.
Anyway, some guys have that ability, some don't. It'd be a real leap of faith to imagine that three, four, five guys on the same staff might have it.
It's not for nothing that "closer by committee" has earned an air of desperation in baseball.

Posted by: Salty Dog | August 27, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

MKevin sez "Baseball has a defined strikezone. It's written in the rules. Everyone knows what it's supposed to be. If the guys behind the plate can't or won't call it then put a system in place that will."

The problem is that only two of the four sides of the strike zone are constant from one batter to the next. That would be the sides of the zone, which correspond with the two sides of home plate. The top and bottom of the strike zone correspond with locations on the batter's body, and these will change from one batter to the next, and even from one pitch to the next if the batter changes his stance. So, unlike in tennis where all of the lines are in fixed locations, if you wanted to use an electronic eye to judge the strike zone you'd have to calibrate it after every pitch. You think games are too slow now? You couldn't even attach a sensor to each batter's uniform at the appropriate spots, because what would prevent the batter from noticing that a pitch is coming in just a bit high and crouching down mid-flight to shrink the zone? Or alternatively standing up straight if the pitch is just a bit low?

There's really no way to remove the human from the loop when it comes to calling balls and strikes. And in the grand scheme of things, one pitched ball called incorrectly is not all that big a deal, which is probably why the rules don't allow batters to argue on balls and strikes. The strike zone is subjective by definition, but as long as each individual umpire is consistent in the way they interpret it, pitchers and batters can adjust to that. It is unfair in some aspects, as Sutton pointed out w.r.t. the bottom of the strike zone curve not being called correctly, but there are ways of dealing with such unfairness by training umpires correctly, as Sutton also pointed out.

Posted by: Section 419 | August 27, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Miss Teen South Carolina (or whomever you really are)... THANK YOU for posting. That made me laugh out load and scared my cube-mates at the same time. if any of you don't understand that post, go find a video clip of the Miss Teen USA pagaent and check out her answer to the question:

"Why can't a fifth of Americans locate USA on a world map?"

So funny, yet so sad at the same time.

Posted by: e | August 27, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

found it...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=wLffEZa2cHY

Posted by: e | August 27, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Can someone link the Sunday Baseball page? I can't seem to find it.

Posted by: Rage | August 27, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"Can someone link the Sunday Baseball page? I can't seem to find it."

I bet you can go into any DC area 7-11 and find it there. They usually have a stack of the Sunday WaPo print edition still lying around most Mondays. The only thing is they'll still charge you $1.50 for it, even though it's day-old news.

Posted by: Section 419 | August 27, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

419: You bring up very valid points especially about the strike zone having 4 dimensions with 2 of them changing from batter to batter. I am not an engineer and by no means have the answer to this. I will however be the biggest supporter of the application of the technology when someone else does!

Posted by: MKevin | August 27, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Couple things:

When Chad blows up, the opposition is jumping on his first pitch. It isn't like they've seen a few, and are figuring him out. They're sitting on that pitch (they've figured him out on video before the game).

RE: umpires -- There's no question that umpires have tremendous influence on the outcome of games. However, they are impartial, and we can only assume that ti the degree that it is humanly possible, they call the game the same for both sides. There are some things that are imperfect, and should be left that way, because they contribute to the overall perfection...

Posted by: Wigi | August 27, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

MKevin & 419 you are both wrong. The Strike Zone actually has 7 sides. It is an area defined top and bottom by the batter (1/2 way between the armpits and "natural waist" (whatever that is) and the cusp (bottom) of the knee and the area above home plate, which is a five sided object.

So, theoretically, you could have a ball curve along the back side of the plate, look all the world like a strike and not be one. That is the serious problem with all of the mechanical devices for detecting balls and strikes. Unless you could put some sort of detector in the ground, completely surrounding the plate, you can't really accomplish anything.

As far as ML umpires are concerned, most of them are very good (or at least consistent and, generally, that is all the players ask for). I did see one at a game earlier this year (no names here) who worked the scissors and consistently moved his head with the pitch. It is absolutely impossible to be accurate calling balls and strikes (or anything else) if your head is moving. Except that he is one of the senior umpires, he would have been called on the carpet. But, he is and he wasn't.

Posted by: Catcher50 | August 27, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Rage:

media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/mlb/longterm/2007/preview/pdf/mlbsunday_0826.pdf

Posted by: joebleux | August 27, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I, for one, would not be in favor of an electronic strike zone. I think the human element is important in officiating all games. Involving technology overemphasizes the importance of sports. I'm a rabid fan, but it's still just a game. Dealing with bad calls is part of the experience. MLB put Questec into some parks about five years ago to evaluate umpires after games. This along with bringing all the umpires under one umbrella (as opposed to having AL and NL umpires) has made the strike zone much more consistent than it was during 60''s, 70's and 80's. World Series used to be very difficult on players because the zone was so radically different between leagues.

In this era, having no defined roles for a bullpen is almost like having no set positions on defense. After Moneyball, Bill James was hired as a consultant to the Red Sox. He convinced them to eliminate roles in the bullpen for the very reasons some have suggested here today. It lasted about 3 months and was an abject failure. Relievers now are so specialized and have such intense preparation that they need to know when they will be used each night. Changing that around tends to wreak havoc on the bully's psyche. I wish it was still 1955, and the players were a bit more malleable, but they aren't.

I do agree though that a closer is easy to replace. If the Nats get a good deal for Chad, they should do it. I only take issue with those who say he's terrible or not of play off caliber. He is (of play-off caliber this is). The Nats should focus their efforts on other parts of the team that are much worse off.

Posted by: #4 | August 27, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Is Ryan Wagner plausible or does his injury make it unrealistic to think he could be considered for the closer role?

Posted by: Arlington Nats Fan | August 27, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I have to admit I am not a fan of Cordero. I agree with what Wigi said earlier. Even at his best, it's tough to watch at times.

I would like to know the average length of time a closer's career as a closer lasts. I think there was an article once by Barry where he talked about that and it was only a few years for the average pitcher. Typically I would think that a closer has fewer pitches than a starter and after a few years the league would catch up to them. Pitchers like Hoffman and Rivera are the expection rather than the norm. Perhaps that is what is happening to Cordero. The league knows the pitches he has and in turn knows what to look for.

Posted by: Bruce | August 27, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

i think wagner has to pitch effectively in the majors before you could consider him for a closer role. not to mention prove he's healthy.

on a side note, saw this in the conservative competitor rag today:

"Washington is expected to name Centerplate, a concession company based in Spartanburg, S.C., to replace Aramark."

that can't be anything but good news. not sure it's possible to suck as badly as aramark has. aramark at RFK for the nats has had some of the worst stadium food with the worst service i've seen in the 30+ yrs i've been eating in stadiums.

Posted by: 508 | August 27, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

In totally unrelated news, I just saw that Sandy Alomar Jr was DFA'd by the Mets. Realizing that his 21 seasons behind the plate (think about that in dog years) have taken a huge toll, he still looked serviceable to me. Would he be cheap as Schneider's backup and mentor to Flores?

Also, I don't remember any commentary here when Jeff Conine was picked up from the Reds after he passed through waivers. Personally I'm happy Conine is getting a chance to end his career with a deep playoff run (WS?). Two minor leaguers for 2 months of experienced leadership. Discuss.

Yes, I realize this is not a Mets chat, but it is a baseball chat and NL East chat. I got the Alomar link to the Nats in there, but can't find one for Conine!

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | August 27, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

508,
In fairness to Barry, the concessions news was reported in today's Scorecard, along with the Lerners 3-stadium tour this week.

----
on a side note, saw this in the conservative competitor rag today:

"Washington is expected to name Centerplate, a concession company based in Spartanburg, S.C., to replace Aramark."

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | August 27, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

ah, ok. i missed it. didn't quite finish the 35c edition before hitting the office today and read the online at lunch.

Posted by: 508 | August 27, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Wigi sez: "When Chad blows up, the opposition is jumping on his first pitch. It isn't like they've seen a few, and are figuring him out. They're sitting on that pitch (they've figured him out on video before the game)."

This doesn't mesh with what Cordero and/or St. Claire were quoted as saying in Saturday's gamer/notes (online version). To paraphrase, since I don't have those quotes in front of me at the moment, Chad's problem Friday night was a mechanical one, in that he wasn't able to throw the fastball with the pinpoint location that he needs in order to be successful. Lack of pinpoint control for Chad equals a very hittable ball, first pitch, every pitch. According to the quotes, the problem he had Friday night (and Thursday night as well, although he managed to escape then) was the same problem that was plaguing him early in the season when he also hit that bad stretch. So I doubt it was a case of the hitters figuring him out from video. He just didn't have his stuff on Friday night, so as far as the hitters were concerned it was like facing a batting practice pitcher.

Which brings up my comment about Manny Acta that I voiced the other day. If Cordero was in the midst of trying to get by mechanical problems on Thursday, presumably Manny would have known that on Friday night. Why then did he feel the need to bring his closer in in a non-save situation when he could have brought in another reliever who had been pitching well lately (can we say...Schroder?) to finish off the game, while giving Chad a chance to work out his mechanics in the bullpen and not lose face by being denied a closer opportunity, since it wasn't one? There is a lot of talk about the great job Manny is doing this year, and I wouldn't deny that he is doing a great job, especially for a rookie manager. But there are more than a few instances like this one that never get mentioned in those discussions, things that aren't worth second-guessing him for now, but would be if the Nats were in the middle of a pennant race.

Posted by: Section 419 | August 27, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Section 419:

Go back and look at the 9th inning of Friday's game... It may be that there was a mechanical problem... but they were all over the first pitch. When he was having a rocky time earlier in the year, it was the same thing... batters were taking the first pitch and making lunch with it... so it may be that the flaw was detected before the game somehow.

Posted by: Wigi | August 27, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I really like Cordero, but some of his blown saves seem to come at the worst possible time - in 2005 he blew one in Atlanta that would have given DC a one game lead in the NL East - but Atl ended up sweeping, he blew the Sept comeback game at RFK vs the Braves when the Nats were still in the race, he blew the one the other night when it looked like the Nats might be on a decent roll to end the season (maybe get wins into the 70s) - there's more, but I can't remember them now.

Posted by: Natswriter | August 27, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Guess who is Pitching for Myrtle Beach Tonight @ Potomac?.... Answer at Bottom.

Also I'm excited to see Detwiller pitch tonight in Potomac for $1 admission, thank you Wash Post...

Answer FORMER NAT Ryan Drese

Posted by: P Nats Fan | August 27, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Wigi sez "Go back and look at the 9th inning of Friday's game... It may be that there was a mechanical problem... but they were all over the first pitch. When he was having a rocky time earlier in the year, it was the same thing... batters were taking the first pitch and making lunch with it... so it may be that the flaw was detected before the game somehow."

I wouldn't argue with any of this except for your last sentence. You implied earlier that opposing teams are often able to figure out what to expect from Chad by watching video, and when they do they feast on it. But what Cordero/St. Claire seem to say is that there is a mechanical problem that leads to his lack of pinpoint precision, which for a pitcher like Chad who lives and dies by his ability to thread the needle with his not-all-that-fast ball means that if the mechanical problem is there, his pitches are all eminently hittable. In other words, he's either on or he's not. More often than not he's been on, and it's doubtful that if he is on any advance video viewing by the other team is going to help them out. He wasn't on on Friday, obviously. But as someone - perhaps it was you - said earlier, when watching Chad from anywhere other than the batter's box his pitches all look the same, whether he's on or he's off. He's threading the needle. If he misses by the least bit, he's going to get hit. Advance video viewing is not going to help any batter figure out whether or not he will be able to thread the needle on them when they step up to the plate against him. But if he doesn't, it doesn't take them long to figure that out and hit it out of the park - as happened on Friday.

Posted by: Section 419 | August 27, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

But 419, they wouldn't have figured out the pinpoint mistakes while AT BAT. The first batter--first pitch single. Second batter--first pitch home-run. They were on to him for something.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 27, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

What they were on to is what every batter in the NL already knows -- Chad lives and dies getting first strikes on the corners with fastballs. The hitters don't need any special knowledge to kill Chad's fastballs when they float to the middle of the plate.

Posted by: joebleux | August 27, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

joebleux is right. If Chad places his first-pitch fastball exactly where he wants to, he gets the strike or the batter hits into an out. If Chad doesn't place his first-pitch fastball exactly where he wants to, due to a mechanical problem or whatever, the batter hits it out. No advance knowledge or prior video study by the batter is needed. They don't need to be "on to him" for anything - except maybe that if he throws you a tater, you hit it. Chad was throwing a lot of taters on Friday night, as he had also done the night before. As I said, Manny ought to have known that Chad was into one of his tater-throwing phases and sent someone else out there for the ninth inning on Friday. It's not like it was a save situation where he would have had to pitch his closer or raise eyebrows if he didn't.

Posted by: Section 419 | August 27, 2007 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Barry -- before I forget -- you did a nice job backing up Mr. Sheinin on the MLB Sunday page.

Posted by: nats fan in annandale | August 27, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Question -- I get confused in all the ins and outs of the NCAA rules. Obviously, McGeary cannot (nor needs to) get his baseball scholarship from Stanford since he signed a professional contract. But -- can he still play (assuming that the Nats would let him) with Stanford as a sort of walk-on without a scholarship? I'm not sure how all the amateur/professional stuff works on this these days.

Posted by: nats fan in annandale | August 27, 2007 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Bobby Cox would kill to have Cordero right now. The Mets radio announcers described him as an "unbelievably courageous" pitcher who, without dominating stuff, has become an effective closer. Chad has pleasantly surprised us much more than he has disappointed. In hindsight, another inning of Ayala would have been judicious against the Rockies, who ate Chad and Rauch's stuff up, but couldn't hit anything with serious movement. We're lucky to have Chad.

Posted by: flynnie | August 27, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

nats fan in annandale:

A - hello neighbor! (I work in springfield)
B - the NCAA rules would prohibit McGeary from playing baseball for Stanford in any capacity. He will be a compensated professional in the sport in which he'd like to compete (i.e. a professional baseball player seeking to play college ball). If he wanted to compete in a different sport, like their men's volleyball team (just as a random selection), he could potentially get an exemption from the NCAA, but he'd have to apply for it. Jeremy Bloom, the Olympic skiier and U. Colorado football player went through this two-sport dilemma (he now plays in some minor role for the Eagles, I believe).

Taken to its logical conclusion, the equivalent of Jack McGeary playing for Stanford would be LaDainian Tomlinson (or some other professional with extraordinarily high talent) playing for TCU again (assuming that he had years of eligibility left and became a student again). The NCAA is not about to let that kind of situation happen, which is why baseball draftees out of high school must make a decision whether to take their draft spot right now... or wait 3 years until they are draft-eligible again (barring a special circumstance).

Posted by: faNATic | August 27, 2007 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Not a comment on the Cordero question, but on the postgame podcast. I can't figure out where to give you all feedback about this, so I'll do it here. Barry, maybe you can pass this along.

For about the past two or three weeks, the audio level of the podcast has been almost unlistenably low. I put your podcast in a playlist (with other podcasts) so I can listen to it in the car on the way the work. The level seems to be a good 10-15 dB lower than the average level of the other podcasts to which I subscribe. So I have to crank it up really high to hear it--which means the next podcast that plays in my list nearly destroys my ears and speakers.

Whoever's doing the final production of the podcast: PLEASE check the audio level and put it back up to where it used to be!

I used to listen daily, but now I have to force myself to play it.

Posted by: shepdave | August 27, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

419 and joebleux, I see your point. Still, they had to have studied Chad enough to know to swing at that first pitch.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 27, 2007 6:07 PM | Report abuse

lineups posted

Posted by: Anonymous | August 27, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, faNATic!

Posted by: nats fan in annandale | August 27, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

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