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Third Time Through Rotation: 2.67 ERA

Every team's issues change several times within any season. For example, the Nats are now trying to patch together a bullpen with Joe Beimel on the DL and survive the exploits of Alberto Gonzalez (five errors in six games at shortstop) until Cristian Guzman comes off the DL in a week.

But a far bigger issue, probably the most important one of the season, has already changed shape very fast: the starting rotation. The first time through the rotation, John Lannan, Scott Olsen, Daniel Cabrera and Shairon Martis had an ERA of 13.20 (!!!)

The second time through the rotation, their ERA was 4.84. Now, the third time through the rotation, this time including Jordan Zimmermann, the five men had an ERA of 2.67, allowing only 24 hits in 30 1/3 innings with 11 walks and 18 K's.

In their last seven games, the Nats starters have an ERA of 2.53. If the Nats still had the Chad Cordero of '05-to-'07 as closer -- yes, I know that pitcher doesn't exist anymore and that if frogs had wings they wouldn't... -- but the "Natinals" might be on a six-game winning streak now. On the other hand, the ERA of the Nat starters for the whole year is still awful -- 5.72. Is that because the first six games of the season were so abnormally bad, but they're better now and showing why the Nats had (some) confidence in them? Or are the last seven games the illusion and maybe a 5.72 ERA (shudder) isn't so far from reality? Or will some other view become much in a month?

One of the reasons I love baseball so much is that it constantly forces us to re-evaluate our opinions, change our minds, say "I was completely wrong," accept new data that we didn't expect -- and greet this new information with enthusiasm as an essential part of the fun. There will be another Lannan "reality test" in just a few hours.

It (almost) goes without saying that in many areas of our lives, we feel threatened or endangered if our views about friends, family, job, you name it, are thrown up in the air and we have to "rethink" how we feel or act. I've always said that baseball fans were offered a kind of daily mental-health-regimine because we have to say, over and over, "Okay, NOW what do I think." The (new) facts constantly batter our biases.

By Thomas Boswell  |  April 22, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
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Did Chico bump into Freud in the clubhouse?

Posted by: dovelevine | April 22, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

If the Nats' starters end up with an '09 ERA between 4.50 and 4.75, I believe they will have over acheived, and I think it will be a credible year in the won/lost column.

Posted by: advocate2 | April 22, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how ignorant people are about how good Chad Cordero was, which was an average closer who was clearly in decline BEFORE he got hurt.

Posted by: Wooden_U_Lykteneau | April 22, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I think an ERA around 4.00 for our starters would be great. Assuming 6 innings for each outing, thats 3 earned runs, a quality start(although the 4.00 ERA is an argument against using 6IP and 3ER as a benchmark).

Nationals Park Suggestion time:
1. Leave pitch speed and official scoring on jumbotron longer
2. Have National Anthem singers sing in a manner and speed in which the crowd can honor their country by singing along - I suggest local High School Choruses - and give them free seats to the game after.
3. Live Organist - how many times can we yell "Charge!" in one game.

Posted by: vo_37 | April 22, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Lannan, keep it going. Big one tonight!

(They're all big ones when you're 3-10 and trying to climb back into respectability, I guess.)

Posted by: usmc53 | April 22, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The Chad Cordero of 05 was clearly better than anyone the Nats have had in the last two years and Hanrahan has made the closer role an adventure so far.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 22, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I'd expect the Nats starters as a group to have an ERA around 4.50.

With Lannan and Zimmermann being in the 4.00-4.25 range.
Olsen being right in the 4.40 range.
Martis in the 4.75 range.
And Cabrera finishing around 5.00 before he gives his slot to Strasburg.

Posted by: comish4lif | April 22, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Words of wisdom from Boz.

Yes, the day-by-day changes in baseball frequently do make us say, "I was completely wrong." Or at least most of us. I guess Boz forgot that we have a few bloggers here at NJ who are never wrong.

Posted by: CapPeterson | April 22, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

1. Leave pitch speed and official scoring on jumbotron longer

Posted by: vo_37 | April 22, 2009 4:35 PM

I agree with that, especially the pitch speed, it goes off the jumbotron far to quick.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 22, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I guess Boz forgot that we have a few bloggers here at NJ who are never wrong.

Posted by: CapPeterson | April 22, 2009 4:46 PM

Nunof1, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Thank You.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 22, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Boz you get it! Thats why Baseball trumps anything outside of maybe Poker, the game is played 162 out of 180 days per year. Thats alot of ups and downs. In our game...., like Charlie and Dave say,"you never know". The NFL can blabber all it wants from Monday to Saturday, what else can they do? In Baseball you wake up the next day and can always say, "hey, hey whata say the Nats are gonna win today"!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 22, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Boz you get it! Thats why Baseball trumps anything outside of maybe Poker, the game is played 162 out of 180 days per year.
Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 22, 2009 5:03 PM


Wow, forgot that there were only 180 days in a year. That explains why time's been flying so fast. I just thought it was all the fun we've been having, folks.

Posted by: faNATic | April 22, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Is this part of a mathematical trend, and if so, at what point will the ERA hit absolute zero? And after then, do they get a negative ERA (not only giving up home runs, but being so intimidating that the other team commits mental errors in the field that lead to Nats runs)?

Or is it that the third time through the rotation was the first full time through at Nats Park? Did playing at home help? Was it the fact that, overall, the park plays neutral?

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 22, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Pitch speed on the Jumbotron: I agree, leave it up longer during the game, but I still don't like it when they use it on our relievers warming up. Do other stadiums do this? "Oh look - Hanrahan's only throwing 88 tonight."

Posted by: Bethesdangit | April 22, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

faNATic the baseball gods say they play 162 in 180 days, now back off......., Unless of course you represent the MLB Network or MLB Homeplate XM 175, then its the "National Past Time" all the time.

Sometimes I keep forgetting that there are 365 days in the year, oh well thats what I get for thinking that a year only lasts from April till the end of Sept.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 22, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes a bat is just a bat, dovelevine.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I second vo 37's plea re the anthem.

Because of the song's range, and the stadium's size, choruses do MUCH better than solo singers. Last year, by far the best renditions were by an Arlington high school chorus and the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington.

If singer's must sing solo, they need to learn that they are NOT auditioning for American Idol, and that excessive ornamentation, melisma, and other idiosyncracies dishonor the song and their country and are unwelcome.

And maybe some day we can return to the grand and dramatic tradition of singing the anthem after the home team takes the field, rather than in the middle of field preparations, so that the last two words of the Star-Spangled Banner are .... "play ball!"

If the facade (or reasonable facsimile thereof) can return to Yankee Stadium after an absence of 36 years, and baseball can come back to Washington after 34, anything is possible.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 22, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

2. Have National Anthem singers sing in a manner and speed in which the crowd can honor their country by singing along - I suggest local High School Choruses - and give them free seats to the game after.
This has been a sore point with me since forever. There are at least six things you can do to @#$% up the national anthem:

1) Take it at the tempo of a funeral dirge.
2) "Slide" into notes, i.e., attack the first "Oh", with a quick grace note a half step below.
3) Sing it in a key in which you either can't hit the bottom notes or you can't hit the top ones. Hey, if you can't find a key that lets you sing both the top and the bottom notes, you shouldn't be singing it in public.
4) The word is NOT pronounced "per-OH-lus." It's per-IH-lus. Get a goddam dictionary.
5) Yelling "Oh!" You know what I mean, goddammit.
6) Turning "free" into a two syllable word and interpolating a major fourth on the second syllable. " of the free-EEE."
7) Jazzing it up. Combined with 1) above, you've turned it into an abomination.

3. Live Organist - how many times can we yell "Charge!" in one game.

Yeah, that, too. I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy, and even I find that lame.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 22, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

TWO new posts!

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 22, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Freud? Perhaps Adler, Jung and Frankl would be much more apropos. Baseball is a very "ritualistic" male sport. More so than any other I imagine. Thus far more ontological if you will.

Coming back down from the ether ... many of the experts now seem to think that if the Nats draft Strasberg ... next year's start might be the polar opposite and one could predict that it would last the year.

Hanrahan has the live arm to be as good a closer as Cordero. Just needs the confidence, the charisma, whatever ... sheesh sounds like frickin' idiot Dan Snyder complaints about Jason Campbell. That guy is an idiot. Fortunately, based on what I am observing that is not the case with the 'Natinal' Bohemians. Pass that Pilsn Urguell.

Posted by: periculum | April 22, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

TWO new posts!

Chico needs Cindy Boren to ride herd on he and Shenin. :) Will happen when they start to win ... and that will happen sooner rather than later much to the utter surprise and delight of a great many fans.

Posted by: periculum | April 22, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey -- Anyone know why I can't get MASN2 on DirecTV tonight??

Posted by: misplacednortherner | April 22, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU FOLKS for bringing up the issue of the pitch speed display on the scoreboard!! Are you listening Stan?!? Or watching?

Literally, if you wait about 2 seconds after the pitch -- *in other words, if you watch the ump call the #@!%&$ pitch* -- you stand a 90% chance of missing the pitch speed on the scoreboard. Then, the spot where the speed had been so briefly displayed remains uselessly blank for about 10 times that long while awaiting the next pitch. So you have a choice: Watch the ump, or instantly swivel to check the speed, but you can't comfortably or reliably see both from most seats.

Sadly, this typifies the thoughtlessness, amateurishness and sheer incompetence that's been an unfortunate hallmark of scoreboard and PA operations at the new ballpark since it opened last year. I've often been left musing that the only possible explanation could be the Lerners have a grade-school nephew stashed in a control room somewhere who they're letting run the scoreboard and sound-effects/music cues for minimum wage, because based on the evidence, they can't possibly have a well-paid staff professional doing the job. I cut the club some slack at the beginning of last year because the place was new, and they did improve the accuracy and timeliness of the scoreboard as the season wore on, but now they seem to have backslid again.

And don't get me started about the entirely inadequate shuttle bus situation from RFK on home-opening day, or the fact that, unlike all my visits last year, no one in our group was handed a free program on our way into the park that day, or how far you have to walk from some food concessions just to hunt down freakin' napkins (which ought to be available at the concession checkouts), or that they have this big expensive new jumbotron yet so seldom show a lot of the replays you really want to see, especially defensive plays or anything that doesn't go the Nats' way...

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | April 23, 2009 4:23 AM | Report abuse

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