Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: AdamKilgoreWP and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Sports and Redskins  |  RSS

Early Deficits

By now, we know all about the late-inning torments. The line of evidence stretches from early April to the present -- or, if you prefer, from Tacoma (present home of Steven Shell) to Syracuse (present home of Wil Ledezma). But for the moment, I want to highlight a different problem. Not only are the Nats blowing late-inning leads, they're also stuck, oftentimes, in early-inning holes. This multiplies the burden on the lineup and, in many cases, ratchets up the starting pitcher's pitch count... which means we see the first bullpen members in the fifth and sixth innings, rather than the seventh and eighth.

No player this year is more responsible for first-inning problems than Jordan Zimmermann. In five of his first six starts, the 22-year-old has allowed at least a run. It's a testament to Washington's comeback potential that Zimmermann has a 2-1 W-L record, despite his 6.35 ERA. The Nats are 3-3 in his starts.

But take a look at the splits. Zimmermann is a different pitcher after the first inning.

FIRST INNING -- 6 IP, 13 ER, 19.50 ERA
INNINGS TWO THROUGH NINE -- 28 IP, 11 ER, 3.54 ERA

Here's the breakdown of his first-inning troubles, start-by-start:

April 20 (ATL) -- 0 runs, 0 hits
April 26 (NYM) -- 1 run, 1 hit
May 1 (STL) -- 1 run, 2 hits
May 7 (LA) -- 6 runs, 4 hits
May 12 (SF) -- 2 runs, 1 hit
May 17 (PHI) -- 3 runs, 4 hits

First-inning problems are a rather typical predicament -- less a matter of execution than pre-game routine. But they can be difficult to solve. The lone time Zimmermann went through the first inning without surrendering a run came in his big league debut, and that game's start time was delayed by rain.

Dating back to college, Zimmermann has kept the same pre-game routine. But after his latest struggles -- he threw 36 pitches in the first inning, 24 of those with two outs -- Manny Acta acknowledged that "he has had a few bad first innings so far, so we're trying to pinpoint it, maybe see if we can get a different routine for him. Maybe throw longer in the bullpen, come out and change something for him. Because even in the good start in New York he had a bit of a rough start."

Zimmermann's take? "Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "I don't know."

First-inning struggles aside, Zimmermann is finding out the difference between Class AA and the big leagues. He needs to make better pitches when ahead in the count -- he's losing way too many guys after jumping ahead 0-2 or 1-2 -- and probably needs to refine his change-up, which tends to have too much velocity.

Right now, he's simply not that efficient, which is a recipe for disaster given the relief pitchers behind him. He's dealing with high pitch counts from the outset, and fighting to survive even five innings. He did it, barely, yesterday, needing 108.

"If I can just get out of the first inning," Zimmermann said, "everything should be fine."

By Chico Harlan  |  May 18, 2009; 8:54 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: So Long, Farewell, Etc.
Next: Attn: Scott Olsen Fans (And Some Reading)

Comments

Brue, still waiting for that detailed analysis of how you would do a better job of managing this team. So far, I've seen, "he needs to call better pitches," "they need to avoid mental mistakes," and "they need to figure out how not to leave so many men on base." Great stuff, keep it up.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 18, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Faced with a similar first-inning problem, the Yankees had Joba Chamberlain throw a simulated first inning in the bullpen before each start.

Posted by: greggwiggins | May 18, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Here's Brue's analysis of the Nationals: The players are there, but no one prepared them.

Here's Brue's analysis of last night's dinner. The food was there, but no one prepared it. That's why you see Brue walk into the grocery store every afternoon, and then into McDonald's every night. Talk about your loser mentality.

Posted by: section417planD | May 18, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Someone mentioned in an earlier thread that the coaches should be blamed for pitch selection, specifically mentioning the 0-2 or 1-2 pitch to Werth that was roped into left for a single. It wasn't that the offspeed pitch was a poor call, it was that JZimm didn't locate the pitch properly. No one, in any count, is going to call for a breaking pitch waist high--most major league hitters will crush that. However, look at the two breaking pitches he threw to Howard the second time through the order--started them out low in the zone and Howard whiffed...same pitch twice in a row. The pitch selection doesn't seem to be an issue, it is the inability to locate the pitches that is the problem.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | May 18, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

"Faced with a similar first-inning problem, the Yankees had Joba Chamberlain throw a simulated first inning in the bullpen before each start."

Did they simulate empty overpriced luxury seats around the bullpen when they did that, to better approximate game conditions?

Posted by: section417planD | May 18, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

NFA reports that Ryan Wagner has retired. Farewell to another failed Bowden project.

Posted by: BobLHead | May 18, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

The baseball game in the Bronx is just a way to kill time between ESPN interviews.

Posted by: Section506 | May 18, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

That's too bad, Bob. Wagner was pretty sweet in 2006. It reminds you that having a lot of talent is only a tiny part of this game. Mental stuff and the pure luck of good health is perhaps even more important.

Posted by: Section506 | May 18, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

>Someone mentioned in an earlier thread that the coaches should be blamed for pitch selection, specifically mentioning the 0-2 or 1-2 pitch to Werth that was roped into left for a single. It wasn't that the offspeed pitch was a poor call, it was that JZimm didn't locate the pitch properly.

It's all about measuring bat speed. If a guy is late on fastballs, and he proves it by fouling it off in the opposite direction, his bat speed is lower than the speed of the pitcher's fastball. They call it 'slider-speed bat'. So, if you throw him a slider, then you are doing him a favor by hitting his bat, because he's proven that he can't catch up to a fastball. Let's say he throws a fastball up, or even down the middle, as you say it's all about executing a pitch - the hitter STILL won't make solid contact because he's not geared up to hit it solidly. So, you can still make a mistake, as long as it's the RIGHT PITCH.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

>Here's Brue's analysis of the Nationals: The players are there, but no one prepared them.

That was Willie Harris' analysis. But thanks for playing.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

from previouis thread....

@Tippy

isn't that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for a different outcome? axta keeps thinking he's managing a REAL baseball team rather than the sorry, no account squad he's stuck with. that's why relievers are only used ro an inning apiece, that's why he feels the need to spot a cipher like belliard in the lineup at hernandez' expense. that's why daniel (walk on the wild side) cabrera is still breathing the air at nats park. his hands-on-too-tight system is made for a competitive team that plays better mistake-proof baseball than the nats, where a three-run lead has a better chance to stand up when the closer comes on in the ninth. right now the nats are not only bad, they're boring. if they were fundamentally sound like the twins, for instance, that wouldn't be a bad thing. but even ron gardenhire pulls something once in while that make you go "hmmmm." axta's strategy makes you go "yawn."

Posted by: surly_w | May 18, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: surly_w | May 18, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Cavalier83, that was a sharp, intelligent analysis that showed a clear understanding of the basic problem facing the Nats.

Too bad you're not as smart as Brue and the others who know it's really Manny's fault (or Randy's fault) because he's supposed to make sure they throw the ball where it's supposed to go when they let go of it.

Maybe one day we'll be as smart as them.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 18, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey baltova1 since you seem to know so much because you claim to have the inside track and its pretty easy to be a cyber-bully you had better go check your fact-o-meter. Rob Dibble has made the statement on numerous occasions that major league clubs no longer take infield practice prior to the start of a game. Rob Dibble played in the bigs for close to 10 years (he actually put on a uniform and played the game) I'll bet the house on Dibble anytime, he is an actual breath of fresh air that you won't hear around here, becuase he ain't afraid to tell the truth.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 18, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

>Brue, still waiting for that detailed analysis

Got some reading material for you, Junior. It's call "It's a Whole New Ballgame" by Stephen Walker. It's the story of the '69 Senators and Ted Williams' first year as manager. Detailed, insightful, many anecdotes about transforming a lousy, ridiculed team with a previous racist drunk for a manager (Lemon), and how, despite essentially the same roster, he managed to go 10 games over .500. With every page turn, your opinion of this year's manager gets more sickening.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Zimm will be fine. He's young. He'll improve the more he pitches. How Martis has done it should be film study for Zimm. Dibble said it best, he moves the ball all over the place and changes speeds. Why they don't all follow suit beats the heck out of me.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 18, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Brue,

I disagree with you. If I throw a 94 mph fastball to a major league hitter 5 times in a row, he's likely going to hit one. However, if I throw a 94 mph fastball twice that he fouls off, then throw a slider that breaks down and away, but looks like it is going to be a fastball in the same spot, he's going to swing and miss.

My point was, if that pitch is thrown where Nieves is set up, Werth strikes out, he doesn't shoot the ball into left. Wrong?

Posted by: Cavalier83 | May 18, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

"the hitter STILL won't make solid contact because he's not geared up to hit it solidly"

Unless he recognizes he's getting fastballs and decides to swing the bat faster.

Posted by: Section506 | May 18, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I think the point, Cavalier, is that it's always easier to call the last pitch than the next one. We have a blog full of experts at calling the last pitch.

Posted by: Section506 | May 18, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Chico - not to soapbox this thing too much, but one other thing about the starts Zimmermann has gotten pounded in is that they have all come with 4 days rest. His first two starts were on long rest (more than a week with some side throwing betweeen his Syracuse start and his DC debut, then 5 days between his first and second starts with the big league club). Since then, 4 starts on 4 days rest.

The club had the chance to push him back a day when it called up Detwiler. They could have thrown Detwiler yesterday (5 days between starts) and JZ today. JZ is still in the building innings age. Why aren't they giving him an extra day when they can?

I know I'll be sick to my stomach if he's hit with the Verducci effect and fails to realize his potential.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 18, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

>I disagree with you. If I throw a 94 mph fastball to a major league hitter 5 times in a row, he's likely going to hit one. However, if I throw a 94 mph fastball twice that he fouls off, then throw a slider that breaks down and away, but looks like it is going to be a fastball in the same spot, he's going to swing and miss.

My point was, if that pitch is thrown where Nieves is set up, Werth strikes out, he doesn't shoot the ball into left. Wrong?

The difference in what you're saying, and I what I was pointing out is that your whole premise is based on the guy making a perfect (or really well located) pitch, right? My premise is that since you've already determined the bat speed, you can get away with a MISTAKE if it's the right pitch. That's the problem - pitchers are going to make mistakes whether you like it or not, which usually comes with location. You can't avoid that. What you can avoid is calling the wrong pitch. It's like your example with Howard - you were right to say that he's a whiffer on breaking balls, and that he's essentially looking for a fastball, especially behind in the count. What you missed was that you credited location for the success of the breaking balls, when it was the mere fact that they were breaking balls that gave them a shot at being successful. If you gamble with a fastball to Howard, then it HAS to be a good pitch. If you throw a breaking ball, then it doesn't. Makes it much easier on the pitcher, especially a young one.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I haven't seen this addressed yet. Whose decision was it to let righty Cabrera pitch to lefty Ryan Howard in the third inning, with the game tied, two outs, Utley on third, and first base open? Why groove him a fastball on 3-1?

Posted by: mherd1 | May 18, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

A large part of Zimmerman's problems are on him. He's really a 2 pitch guy at this time and that's not enough at this level. In a perfect world he would be in AAA working on that. As dreadful as the starters would be without him (and they're plenty bad with him too), the Nats have got to realize that nothing is being gained by rushing these guys. Too late for Zimm as you gotta keep him up, but so far I think he's being hurt by that approach and the inability for the Nats to take th long view to building this team is what's wrong right now.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 18, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

A major league pitcher should be able to bury a slider in the dirt at 0-2. It isn't about perfect location, it is the difference between low and outside and high and inside. That mistake should never be made.

It is painfully easy to say, "Well, he clearly shouldn't have thrown him a belt-high breaking ball in that count," after the guy has got a hit. Since he didn't throw a fastball, I can't say, "He would have gotten a hit in that situation if it was a fastball that he missed with." You can surmise what would have happened, and all I can say is that I disagree with your assessment of the situation.

I also must disagree with your Howard assessment, as he jacked a bomb on a hanging breaking ball Friday night. The location of those breaking pitches is what allowed them to be successful.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | May 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Why all the hate on Brue and others who are calling for Manny's head?

They are entitled to their opinion and quite frankly, with an 11-25 record so far, and coming off a 102 loss season last year are they really being that ridiculous?

I personally don't think is is time to give Acta a pink slip however, I think it helps the discussion on the NJ if we have different views other than the blind cheerleaders and excuse givers.

Rave on Brue and others, I for one like to read it.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

i predict we are about to go on a 5-game winning streak starting tonight.

any takers?

Posted by: longterm | May 18, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

And, for that matter, Werth may have served a low and outside slider into right...I can't say for sure that wouldn't have happened, either.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | May 18, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Brue's prescription to save the Nats: Thaw out the frozen head of Ted Williams and install it in the manager's office at Nationals Park. But the big question is this: Will today's young ballplayers be motivated by having to work for a formerly frozen disembodied head? Knowing the state of today's youth, strangely they might be. Perhaps Brue is not quite as clueless as we all thought.

Posted by: section417planD | May 18, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

>A major league pitcher should be able to bury a slider in the dirt at 0-2. It isn't about perfect location, it is the difference between low and outside and high and inside. That mistake should never be made.

The guy is 22 and one year removed from Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He's never thrown more than a half a season's worth of innings. You need to take that into consideration. Simplify it for him.

>"He would have gotten a hit in that situation if it was a fastball that he missed with." You can surmise what would have happened, and all I can say is that I disagree with your assessment of the situation.

But surely you have to understand that reading bat speed is important. If he had thrown another fastball his % of success goes up. Right? It's not about predicting outcomes, it's about predicting the percentages of outcomes.

The thing about Howard - a previous poster was right - if first base is open, just walk him. Problem solved. He's still a dead fastball hitter, at least that's what he looks for.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

"i predict we are about to go on a 5-game winning streak starting tonight.

any takers?"

That would presumably include winning a DCab start and a (probable) bust rookie pitcher's first (only?) career start tonight. All this while having the inherent disadvantage in any close game because of our bullpen and poor game management/team preparation. The Pirates suck but they're better than us. I'll take it. 73 games under .500 and rising (falling?)

Posted by: RickFelt | May 18, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

what we need is more offense. how can we expect to win if we don't score more runs than the other team!?!?!

Posted by: longterm | May 18, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

>Why all the hate on Brue and others who are calling for Manny's head?

They've obviously never been over to bpg. They got no idea who they're dealing with.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I understand the youth thing, I do. And I buy your percentage of success idea. I just do not agree that a fourth straight fastball would have measurably increased his chances for success.

I agree that you put Howard on base also, but that he was able to crush a terrible breaking ball over the center field fence despite looking fastball does seem to indicate that the two breaking pitches Zimmerman threw him were well located. He does have that pitch in his repertoire. Also, the fact remains that should Howard have been put on base, the Phils would then have Werth up there with a "slider-speed" bat and a guy who's fastball is slider-speed.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | May 18, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Longterm....

Five game winning streak? by the Gnats?

I'll take that action... what's the bet???

Posted by: randy_boyd | May 18, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The difference between NJ and BPG: On NJ, Brue argues that the frozen head of Ted Williams should be managing the Nationals, then heads out for a beer. On BPG, Brue photoshops the frozen head of Ted Williams onto a picture of a dog taking a dump, then heads out for a beer.

Posted by: section417planD | May 18, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

You gotta love the personal attack humor of ABM/nunof1/spamcastin. etc. and now his latest moniker, section417planD.

Dude, seriously, can we have a discussion in here without this crap?

Posted by: Section505203 | May 18, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

To those who care, the "hate" for Brue comes in response to his own obnoxious comments. To the rest of you who want to fire Manny, I feel no hate, just sympathy for your misdirected anger. I have no idea if Manny's a good manager or not, he's never had a team that he could actually manage. I just have a hard time playing him for this mess.

One other thing: Brue, let me get this straight, your example of a manager better than Manny is...Ted Williams????

Posted by: baltova1 | May 18, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

the bet is you have to post something nice about the other person. we're talking high stakes.

Posted by: longterm | May 18, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

The best argument for firing Manny is this: what's the worst that could possibly happen?

We're already an embarrassment, the butt of nearly every baseball joke. Are we somehow going to get WORSE if he's not here?

Sometimes in sports you're afraid to let someone go, because you fear they'll come back to haunt you with another team. But you can't honestly believe Manny will ever be that great of a manager, and nobody is going to give him the reins to a great team.

Do it for the fans alone. The apathy only confirms what so many of us suspect about the Lerners.

But hey, beer sales were pretty good yesterday. The Phils fans had plenty to celebrate.

Posted by: bryc3 | May 18, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Martis is young, how is he doing it?

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 18, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

>Martis is young, how is he doing it?

Compact windup, stays on top of the ball, and virtually everything is down in the zone. When you stay on top with the changeup, it has the ability to roll right or left if you throw it for the middle of the plate. Zimmerman doesn't have a changeup, and he's still trying to dodge bats. He throws power pitches - good fastball and power breaking ball. Similar to a high school stud. Martis isn't worried about dodging bats, his changeup has enough movement and pace that it does it for him. The hitters do the work for him. With Zimmerman, he does the work for the hitters, giving them stuff up in the zone and by not learning to take something off of it. The ball travels well off of him. If Martis has a good fastball, he goes with it, if he doesn't, he just uses it to set up the changeup(s). I can never understand why pro pitchers don't have a decent changeup, I'd teach it to little leaguers and it's only a matter of time before they get the hang of it. The way you adjust the speed on it is by merely stuffing the ball farther back into your palm in order to slow the ball down. You can throw two or three different changeups merely by moving the ball back and forth from your palm to your fingertips without even changing the grip. At different speeds, the ball does different things, and you haven't even changed the grip. So, the changeup is the big difference between Martis and the others. That, and he keeps the ball around the knees.

Posted by: Brue | May 18, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

First inning woes are hardly exclusive to ZMnn. There's been many a great pitcher who has had problems in the 1st. Think how often a commentator has said about a starter, "you better get him early or you're not going to get him at all." You can change ZMnn's routine if you want but it's all about execution. It doesn't matter what the catcher calls, either Jordan can change speeds and hit spots or he's in trouble. (As is every pitcher in every league, every where.)ZMnn has talent and I'm willing to be patient. It's a long way from AA and it's no surprise (to me) that he's not dominating the hitters. I wouldn't be shocked if he gets demoted to the minors at some point, just to work on his stuff and rebuild his confidence. I don't think we're at that stage quite yet though.

Posted by: grforbes | May 18, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company