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A New Year, A New Offense

Maybe I was getting carried away, swept up in the natural adrenaline of a tight deadline and a tight ballgame. But somewhere in my final game story last night, I dropped the word "vintage" to describe Washington's offensive barrage. Evidently a smart editor called me on it, and I gotta say, I was a bit relieved to re-read my article this morning and see no signs of the braincramp word choice. Vintage? Has so much changed in 1-1/2 months that an 11-run, 18-hit game is now typical?

Well, not typical.

But more and more, good offense -- persistent, patient, productive offense -- has become the Nats' trademark. (Along with Bad News Bears-caliber defense and relief pitching.) No longer do huge innings register as a surprise. I'm not mounting any sort of defense for my word choice, but with respect to the offense of your 2009 Washington Nationals, here are some facts.

* Their .275 batting average ranks fourth in the NL.

* Their .363 OBP ranks second in the NL.

* Their 125 walks rank second in the NL.

* Three times already, the Nats have scored 10 or more runs in a game; they've scored at least eight runs seven times -- some 26-percent of the time. Twelve times, they've gotten at least 10 hits. They have yet to get fewer than five hits in a game.

* Among those with at least 70 at bats, the Nats have three of the top hitters, based on AVG, in the NL. No. 1: Cristian Guzman, .392. No. 9, Ryan Zimmerman, .336. No. 10, Nick Johnson, .330.

Now, to put this in perspective. (Note to Rick Eckstein: Clip and save as evidence for your next pay raise.)

* The Nats last year finished with a .251 average, 13th in the NL. Their slugging percentage, .373, ranked dead last. Only 21 times all year (so, in 13-percent of their games) did the Nats score eight or more runs. They were shut out 21 times, too.

* Their home run leader finished with 14. Their RBI leader finished with 61.

* How about we think back to the 2008 team's trip to Dodger Stadium. Three games, from July 25-27. The Nats scored a total of two runs. They got a total of 12 hits. Now that used to be vintage.

By Chico Harlan  |  May 8, 2009; 2:07 PM ET
 
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Next: Tonight's Lineups

Comments

Time to stop doubting Canseco

http://bases.newsvine.com/_news/2009/05/07/2789675-time-to-stop-doubting-canseco

Posted by: dclifer | May 8, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

thank you thank you thank you. Just what I needed. This stuff spelled out nice and slow and thorough so I could savor every word.

my heart rate's up.

who's the equivalent of Eckstein in fielding?

Posted by: NatsNut | May 8, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

After the first inning I was sure they could score six runs by game's end and was only going to keep watching unless they gave up one or two more. Last year I might have shut it off after the slam.

Posted by: sjt1455 | May 8, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

*Their .275 batting average ranks fourth in the NL.

* Their .363 OBP ranks second in the NL.

* Their 125 walks rank second in the NL.

Wow.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | May 8, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I'd rank the reasons for improvement as (1) health (2) Dunn (3) Eck (4) talent (no more Wily Mo Lo Ducas)

Hard to quantify Eck's influence. Although if he's the one who got AH to stop swinging for the fences, that's a huge improvement and probably better than Lenny Harris would have done.

Posted by: joebleux | May 8, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

7 of the Nats 8 everyday players (and I'm including Kearns as part of the 8) are hitting .290 or better (Kearns avg is .258)

4 of the everyday 8 have an OBP over .400 (Dunn - .445, Hernandez - .430, Johnson - .414, Kearns - .410).

Of the other 4, Dukes' OBP is the lowest at .370!

Posted by: erocks33 | May 8, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Great post.

Vintage journal.

Posted by: nattaboy | May 8, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Good job Eckstein. Now how bout some pitching stats. Is it finally time to show St. Clair the door?

Posted by: dovelevine | May 8, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it's time to get him some Dunn-level pitchers.

*********
Good job Eckstein. Now how bout some pitching stats. Is it finally time to show St. Clair the door?
Posted by: dovelevine | May 8, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 8, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Way to go Chico you hit the nail on the head, this line up "ain't no joke" as my dad used to say, i am going to say this now, we get this bullpen straight and we could have something to say about the NL east come late August early Sept.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 8, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't think you can fault Randy St. Clair until we start having pitchers that struggled for us begin to shine elsewhere. That hasn't happened, to my knowledge.

Posted by: twinbrook | May 8, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

* Their 125 walks rank second in the NL.

This is the difference between this year's offense and last year's. When the opposing pitchers have to throw strikes you can get a lot more hits and home runs.

Posted by: Section506 | May 8, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps our "extra catcher" (Bard) could be dealt to the now-desperate Yankees for relief help. We need young-uns for our future bullpen...

Posted by: jcville | May 8, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Eck's the man! FoF looks like a different hitter this year, as does Kearns. Hernandez and Dukes are coming into their own and even Flores has been a steady contributer.

It's crazy that we need 10 runs to win every night, but it's also crazy that we've been able to get there.

Posted by: sec307 | May 8, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"It's crazy that we need 10 runs to win every night, but it's also crazy that we've been able to get there. "

OH
MY
GOD

We're becoming the Phillies.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!

Or, in the spirit of the day...

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!

Posted by: Section506 | May 8, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Boswell compared the Nats to the Caps.

Actually, the Nats are the 1960s Redskins with Jurgensen. Score 41 points a game, lose 45-41.

Posted by: ThinkingOne | May 8, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

It's pretty cool to look at the lineup on any particular night and see 5 300+ hitters there and two others at 290! (could this be the OTHER Big Red Machine?!)

Posted by: 1of9000 | May 8, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget that Flores has proven to be a good RBI man. He was 2nd on the Nats last season (to LM) and that was in only 90 games and in fewer plate appearances than any other starter.

Posted by: slewis1 | May 8, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

You're funny, 506!

Yep, I'm liking this offense. Now, about that bullpen...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 8, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"Perhaps our "extra catcher" (Bard) could be dealt to the now-desperate Yankees for relief help. We need young-uns for our future bullpen"

Um, have you seen the Yank's pen this year? Don't think they will be dealing away any arms anytime soon.

Posted by: skippy1999 | May 8, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The hitting is the best I've seen from a Washington team going back to the late '50s. But don't forget the obvious: The Nats are 8-18, and no lead is safe with the current 'pen.

Posted by: nats24 | May 8, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

506, my dad and I were just saying a few days ago that this (a game like last night's) is why you need more than just a couple good hitters. When a guy like Dunn can take his walk, secure in the knowledge that Dukes and Kearns/Willingham can come through behind him, each guy's job is only to keep the rally going. Nobody needs to bust the game open all by hisself.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 8, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Also, last night the Dodgers intentionally walked a certain individual so they could get to Adam Dunn.

Our little Ryan is all growed up.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 8, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Good point, skippy. I'd take a prospect for Bard, though, if the Yanks have anything to offer. Anyone have thoughts about this?

Also, it'd be nice if LMillz would start hitting at AAA so we could ship him off...

Posted by: jcville | May 8, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I have a question for all of you MASN veterans, this being my first year with cable access. What's the deal with rebroadcasts of games? Not talking classics, just the week's games. I've noticed that some local Nats games are rebroadcast in the wee hours or early the next morning, but that doesn't seem to be the case with West Coast trips. I'm still happy to have a chance to see all the games live on tv, but is this rebroadcast scenario typical?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 8, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I have to say, I'm as guilty as anyone in seeing the team in the NatsTown bubble. But last night at Fenway I saw our offense (the patient, wear-em-out then bust out BoSox) and our pitching (the Tribe's decent young starter (Sowers) and their cover-your-eyes awful bullpen. That 12R 6th was something even the Nats haven't had to endure; it started 1B-BB-2B-IBB-1B-BB-2B-1B-1B-1B-1B-HR.

Mercy.

With the Yankee/Sox model of patient hitting spreading around the league, and 'pens almost universally imploding, just what is the solution? Will the Rizzo plan to just get steadier, older arms in there work? I think (hope) so...

Posted by: natinbeantown | May 8, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Also, last night the Dodgers intentionally walked a certain individual so they could get to Adam Dunn.

Our little Ryan is all growed up.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 8, 2009 3:40 PM

***********

Very, very good point. This makes me giggle.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 8, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

LOL
Excellent job, Scooter!


"Also, last night the Dodgers intentionally walked a certain individual so they could get to Adam Dunn.

Our little Ryan is all growed up."

Cause you're growns up and you're growns up and you're GROWNS UP!!

Posted by: ajtrue78 | May 8, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Perspective:

Our record in games with more than 10 runs scored:

1-1, with a no decision.

Posted by: rbelleisle | May 8, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Last night's game was quite a shot in the arm for Nats fans used to being disappointed. I must say that watching Beimel tough it out in the 8th, while excruciating, was really something. Yes, he through 40 pitches, but 26 were strikes, and he only walked one guy (on 8 pitches). Two batters hit three fouls with two strikes. The guy just kept throwing strikes under a huge amount of pressure - not something we've seen alot of this year.

And on a day when we are celebrating the improved Nats hitting, and that Willingham played a great game last night at bat and in the field, everyone should enjoy checking out the following link!

http://myespn.go.com/blogs/sweetspot/0-2-42/Pulling-the-plug-on-Bonifacio.html


Here's a snip: "As you might recall, in the Marlins' first game this season, Bonifacio hit a home run, collected three singles and stole three bases. He was, for a day, the toast of the National League. In his first seven games, he batted .485 and radio hosts were asking me if this guy was for real (you might easily imagine my answer).

"Bonifacio's line since those first seven games: .165/.224/.176.

"Bonifacio's season line: .250/.295/.306 -- practically dead even with his career line (which now encompasses 345 plate appearances in the majors)."

Posted by: Section222 | May 8, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Nationals Review went over this stuff for each individual player. It seems the reason they're scoring runs is that everyone is actually doing their job at the plate.

http://nationalsreview.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/nats-bats-coming-to-life/

Posted by: CharlieF | May 8, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Am I a bad person because Bonifacio's OPS-ing .601 makes me happy?

Yes. Yes, I think I am. And I'm okay with that.

Posted by: Section220 | May 8, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

a1: Left Coast games start and end so late -- i.e. after midnight -- over here on the Right Coast that MASN doesn't bother to rebroadcast the games. (At least I think that's the case)

Posted by: Juan-John | May 8, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

220, if you liked Boni's stats, perhaps you'll enjoy a serving of Flopez:

April OPS: .901
May OPS: .571

Hopefully we can help him along towards a season like he had for us in 2008, where he hit for an effortless (and do I ever mean "effortless") OPS of .619.

Posted by: joebleux | May 8, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

If only they could do their jobs in the field.

Now that Melvin has been axed, I wonder how long it will be before Acta gets shown the door. My guess is that if they fall 12 games uner 500 and lose 2 of 3 to the Phillies next weekend, Manny will not be on the becnh for the Oriloes series.

Who will replace him? (Of course, you were all going to guess AJ Hinch, but he is now off the board -- amazingly enough.) It may not happen this season, but barring some fantastic run and a strong finish, Acta is not getting renewed for '10.

Showalter? Bobby V? Donnie Baseball? Willie Randolf? Davey Johnson? Buck Martinez? Don Baylor? Long, long shot Wally Backman??


Posted by: dfh21 | May 8, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if this is what you are asking regarding MASN, but ... I believe it is acurate to say that not all games are re-broadcast, but it appears that most games originally broadcast on MASN2 are re-broadcast at some point on MASN - sometimes in the wee hours sometimes the following morning. I think there is some rythm to this, but I am not confident what it is.

I have DirectTV and they manage to ensure that all MASN2 games are broadcast in the same place with good quality. I get the impression that some cable companies are less consistent.

Was I answering the correct question (or attemtpting to)?

Posted by: natbiscuits | May 8, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

@joebleux - yep, yep, that makes me happy as well! Again, being gratified by that: bad.

But I'll live with myself.

Posted by: Section220 | May 8, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Chico, thanks for the great post. The walks are so important. One request - let us know how are they ranked in runs scored. That's the number that matters most.

Not griping, I'll look it up soon.

Posted by: utec | May 8, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Josh Whitesell who might start for the DBacks tonight. He was ours, and we put him on waivers? Is(was) he that bad?

Posted by: nova_g_man | May 8, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

"Josh Whitesell who might start for the DBacks tonight." Wow, I remember watching him play for the P-Nats back in 2005. He was impressive back then. But, I didn't follow his story closely enough to know why/how he went to promising Nat prospect to starting 1B for the DBacks.

Posted by: mvm2 | May 8, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

"Josh Whitesell who might start for the DBacks tonight. He was ours, and we put him on waivers? Is(was) he that bad?"

As I recall, he was a Rule 5 pick, so it wasn't that he was that bad - he just wasn't that good.

In hindsight, that turned out to be a mistake...

Posted by: Section506 | May 8, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

DFH21: I'm with you on the Manny watch but they could concievably be 7-1/6-2 on this road trip if the bullpen stops imploding i was surprised at the Hinch hire by the D-Backs i mean damn they were 12-17 and not hitting a lick but they had double digit wins and its still early.Acta may keep the "Turk" away if the Nats can come back strong on this road trip Manny might buy himself some time, as far as those candidates you mentioned Baylor,Donnie B,Willie, and Buck Sho yes the rest no.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 8, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

If I read "Moneyball" correctly... with these kind of OBPs we should be in first place in the mediocre NL East by now. Maybe, though, over the long haul the wins will start to pile up.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 8, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

As bad as the Nats bullpen is it doesn't seem too far out of the ordinary for the NL. The Dodgers pen did a meltdown last night and the D-Backs, Mets and Phils have a weak pens as well. Big innings hve been fairly common in both leagues. Clearly there is a dearth of relief pitching. Fortunately we have the sticks now to inflict some punishment instead of taking it all of the time. The balanced lineup is really paying off. A protected Zimm is a sight to behold, he is seeing a lot less slop down and away. Taking the walks is a big factor too. I believe we had a 6 run inning with 4 walks and just 2 hits. Patience is a virtue with all the crappy bullpens out there.

Posted by: SackMan | May 8, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

If this team's bullpen was MLB caliber, the Nats would near .500 and all of you would be on cloud nine.
They'd be 13-14, the 3 against the Marlins, 1 against the Phillies and the still suspended game against the Astros.

Posted by: patchss | May 8, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, we have to pitch and play defense also . . .

Posted by: slewis1 | May 8, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately, we have to pitch and play defense also . . ."

It's true. I have definitely found in my lifetime that the hardest part about baseball is playing it.

Posted by: Section506 | May 8, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Scooter, great point about Zimm getting walked to get to Dunn. Amazing.

I hope Zimm is buying Dunn a lot of steak dinners lately. Dunn's presence in the 4- hole is getting Zimm a lot of pitches to hit. And to Zimm's great credit, he's hitting the hell out of them.

Go Nats!

Posted by: usmc53 | May 8, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Do NOT trade Nick Johnson!

Posted by: usmc53 | May 8, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, natbiscuit and Juan-John. That does answer my question.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 8, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

with a bullpen we could be dangerous right now, it's a shame the owners thought biemel(great addition), coupled with some scraps of tavarez and wells was enough help, it's really demoralizing to know that the pen is always looming

Posted by: bford1kb | May 8, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Really though across the board hitting is up and pitching is down. Bullpens more than starters. Have a look at any lineup in MLB and you'll see lots of .300+ hitters. Lots of teams are blowin' games late even the good ones.

Why?? Who knows. Never seen such a stark difference in hitting/pitching stats (well at least not in the "post" juice era).

With the Nats there's obvious reasons. olsen/cabrera are unreliable retreads. The 'pen was gutted. But seems like a lot of teams are having the same problem.

I wouldn't dump Manny for Melvin. It would just be the same uncertainty. We need a vet.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | May 8, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Well, it would help quite a bit if our bullpen pitchers weren't pitching so much. I'd like to see more 7-inning starts (or CGs a la Martis). Wasn't Olsen supposed to be an innings-eater?

Posted by: jcville | May 8, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Gotta be honest. Don't know what to do with Johnson. The season is still young. If he stays healthy and is willing to be reasonable with his contract luke Guzy was then might be worth the risk. But Odds are he'll get hurt again.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | May 8, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Do we have anyone in the wings who can play first base anywhere close to how well Nick plays it?
How good is Marrero? Others? Can they hit?

Posted by: usmc53 | May 8, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Good point jcville. Olsen was supposed to be an innings eater. But at least the rotation has been far more durable this year. I think in many cases they could/should be letting the starters go longer. We all know the obsession the current management has with pitch count. They should also start getting more comfortable the the offense will provide more opportunities to score runs so you don't have pinch hit so early.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | May 8, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm wondering if the disparity between hitters and pitchers now is the respective availability of resources for improvement and refinement. Hitters can study video of their swings and practice thier brains out against sophisticated pitching machines. Pitching is an art as much as a science with the need for mental toughness.
Mastering a variety of pitches is very difficult. There is also a physical limit on how much a pitcher can throw. Not sure how often pitchers work against live batters. Seems like hitters have the edge in training and preparation. The smaller ballparks are also be a factor -- I hate the bandboxes in Philly, Cincy and Houston.

Posted by: SackMan | May 8, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Lastings Mendoza hitting .143 against lefthanders (why, BTW?) and 20 points above his weight overall. No BB last 8-10 games or so, no HRs.

I was hoping he would hit and we could unload him (white Sox, DBacks, others), but obviously noone wants him. Send him to Harrisburg?

Posted by: nova_g_man | May 8, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

A-Rod hits a 3-run dinger on the first pitch of his season. The wierd thing is Camden Yard appears to be largely empty -- bad camera angle?

Posted by: SackMan | May 8, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

When Acta goes, Wally Backman has to get the shot. A proven successful manager. A player's manager.

http://blip.tv/file/1863550

Posted by: happyjack1962 | May 8, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Sure, the bullpen stinks, but as correctly pointed out by several people, bullpens are struggling across baseball (for what reason, I don't know). But what is really surprising, and has cost several games directly and indirectly, is defense. They shouldn't be this bad, I don't think, yet they are. Once Milledge was demoted, only Dunn should be a liability, and you should be able to hide him in LF, with Dukes talented but learning on the job, but not Milledge-bad. Kearns, Guzman, Johnson, even Flores should be steady, if not spectacular, and Zim and Hernandez should be above average. Instead, they are at or near the bottom. It must be crushing what little confidence the pitchers have, and I am sure is contributing to their walk rate.

Posted by: Willy2 | May 8, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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