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Wild Pitchers, Wild Pitches

I'll post in greater detail -- and with greater reflective prowess (powered by an a.m. coffee) -- tomorrow morning... when people are actually reading this blog... but here are some quick-hit items to take away from tonight's 10-3 loss.

A STAT: The Nats are 0-6 in Daniel Cabrera's starts this year. Cabrera doesn't deserve too much blame for tonight's defeat -- he was typically wild, but kept it together -- but at some point, the inescapable losing makes you wonder: Does Cabrera's sloppiness lead to others' sloppiness? This year, Cabrera has allowed eight unearned runs (including one tonight), most in the NL. Manny Acta wondered aloud before today's game whether fielders sometimes fall into a lull because Cabrera walks so many hitters and throws so many pitches. Even the fielders will tell you, they much prefer to play defense behind a fast worker like Jordan Zimmermann. They stay on their toes. The two errors tonight behind Cabrera, both from Cristian Guzman, should have been routine plays. It's to Cabrera's credit that the damage wasn't greater.

(But let's not give him too much credit. A 5-1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 1 K outing should not meet anybody's standard for adequacy.)

A QUOTE: Maybe you saw Mike Hinckley's 3-2 pitch to Orlando Hudson in the sixth. If you didn't, let's just say that the fastball took off like a Delta flight. It sailed over the batter's box and hit the netted backstop on a fly. You'll be seeing this on blooper shows for as long as God makes rain delays.

Hinckley's take: "I went to throw a fastball on 3-2 and as I went to go back I felt the ball come out of my hand. And then I just threw it -- I mean, I had no grip on it. And it's just one of those feelings when you are going down really fast in an elevator and you feel your stomach go out from underneath you, it's like that feeling. I kind of had no idea where this ball is gonna go, because, to be quite honest with you, I just lost it. It wasn't a curveball. It was a 3-2 fastball. And I just lost it."

And the feeling afterward?

"I just sit on the bench kind of, like, shocked that it happened," he said. "You can't go back. You can't play the what-if game. Having the ball slip out of your hand when you go to throw it, it's not a good feeling. But that's what happened, and I'll be ready to go for tomorrow."

A PREDICTION: I think Daniel Cabrera makes three more starts for the Washington Nationals.

By Chico Harlan  |  May 7, 2009; 2:49 AM ET
 
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Comments

Three more starts by Cabrera and the Lerners may give Pedro the $5 million he wants.

Posted by: Snopes1 | May 7, 2009 2:55 AM | Report abuse

I can not stand to watch Cabrera pitch--even when he is not getting horribly abused. Do we really have to sit through 3 more starts from him? Surely there is some pitcher in the minors who has more ability to pitch than Cabrera does?

Bergmann got sent down for Logan Kensing? This guy just sucks, the Marlins knew it. And we wasted a prospect on this loser?

Posted by: driley | May 7, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Cabrera is living on borrowed time, but I think we'll see Craig Stammen or Collin Balester in the rotation in his place instead of Pedro or someone from the outside.

Posted by: VaNat | May 7, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

The Marlins truly got the best on this deal. Gunderson has pitched 4 shut-out innings for them. What has Kensing done for us?

Posted by: minorleaguefan | May 7, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Offense, send a thank you note to Cabrera. If not for him, it would be noted that you were 0 for 5 with RISP. 3 Runs won't win many games.

Posted by: Section506 | May 7, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

this bullpen is traitorious.

Posted by: longterm | May 7, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

traitorous.

Posted by: longterm | May 7, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I think it is time for some more tinkering of the bullpen. I agree with others . This guy Logan Kensing needs to go. He will not help. Why we gave up a prospect for this guy is beyond me but that horse has left the barn. Hinckley needs to be sent down. Too many walks . He has had his chances. He needs to regain his confidence. I would bring up Bergman again. I know he had a bad outing when he was last here but this guy can pitch. I know he is a better starter than Cabrera. Also lets see what this Tyler Clippard can do.

I have given Rizzo and Acta a pass on the bullpen but they need to try some of these other guys. What they have against Bergmann is beyond me. Give Bergmann the same chances as the others have been given.

Posted by: mjames0 | May 7, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

"Manny Acta wondered aloud before today's game whether fielders sometimes fall into a lull because Cabrera walks so many hitters and throws so many pitches. Even the fielders will tell you, they much prefer to play defense behind a fast worker like Jordan Zimmermann. They stay on their toes."

I noticed a couple of things:

1) Kershaw worked quickly and efficiently, in contrast to Cabrera.

2) Someone once said that hitting is timing, and that pitching involves upsetting that timing. I thought about that while watching Manny Ramirez at the plate. He goes through this routine while in the batter's box of waving his bat down and around with his left hand, bringing it back to the right hand, three or four times. It strikes me as a way of getting synched for the coming pitch. Is the pitcher under any obligation to wait for him to finish up with his little routine? Or can he start his windup just as Manny's beginning his first iteration of this routine, and thereby possibly upset his timing?

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 7, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

The Nats offense so far has been horrible with RISP. Combine that with the pitching and you have what you have - a bad team.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 7, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Fire Acta

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I like Cabrera, and I genuinely feel for the guy. It's not as if he's trying to be so terrible. He's a man with all the tools to be a successful pitcher, save one - coordination. He's just not a naturally athletic guy.

It's got to bother him. No one likes doing a job this poorly.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 7, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, send that thank you note - and enclose with it a dozen dead roses saying "thanks for losing us games of 13-11, 9-8 and coughing up the lead in that 10-10 game, ya jerks."

Lots of things wrong with this ballclub, 506, but the league-average offense isn't. Maybe occassionally we oughta hold the opponents to under 10, eh?

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | May 7, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

"1) Kershaw worked quickly and efficiently, in contrast to Cabrera."

Were you drunk while watching the game? He threw 100 pitches in 5 innings! That's not quite the model of efficiency!

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | May 7, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Chico asks, "Does Cabrera's sloppiness lead to others' sloppiness? "

Considering that one error came leading off an inning on a lazy throw, which was the product of bad footwork, and the other came after a hit, not a walk, the answer for this game, at least, is "definitely not."

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | May 7, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Uncle_Teddy: "Were you drunk while watching the game? He threw 100 pitches in 5 innings! That's not quite the model of efficiency!"

Okay, maybe not efficient, but certainly a lot faster than Cabrera, who seemed to be giving the Dodger batters all the time they needed to get comfortable in the batter's box. Which led to my question above about Manny and his little batter's box routine.

FWIW, I wasn't drunk, but I WAS nodding off and was lights out after three or four innings.

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 7, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

nothing upsets a hitter's timing more than a pitcher who works fast and throws strikes.

i'm still on manny's side. it's the players that suck.

Posted by: longterm | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

How pathetic is Hinckley this year. Last year he was so effective and confident. He will be great for Syracuse.

He comes into a 2-1 game and leaves it in a mess---now sure Cabrera was left in there 2 batters too many but your relievers have to do their job with inherited runners. Isn't Hinckley a Lefty Specialist????

Bullpen by committee is not working. Beimel is working and Kip Wells (mostly) and the rest of the bullpen clicks when they are in low pressure situations.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

"Isn't Hinckley a Lefty Specialist????"

He is. And Manny brought him in to face two right-handed batters. (one was a switch-hitter)

Great idea there, Manny.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | May 7, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

i'm still on manny's side. it's the players that suck.

Posted by: longterm | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM

*********

Nice post. Short and direct. Plus I agree with you.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 7, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

longterm and NatsNut, you are correct. Just a little reminder of what he's working with, for those pushing for Bergmann to come back into the rotation: Bergmann's career stats as a starter: 8-18, 4.98 ERA, 45 home runs allowed in 273 innings. Anybody who watched that game last night and wants to blame Manny is clueless.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 7, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

"Lots of things wrong with this ballclub, 506, but the league-average offense isn't. "

They weren't league-average last night. And the pitchers would have had to hold them to under 3 to win, not under 10.

Posted by: Section506 | May 7, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

>Anybody who watched that game last night and wants to blame Manny is clueless.

Rule #1 in the pros - you can't fire the team. See, they already tried that with the bullpen and it didn't work.

Still wanna fire the team? Nothing like painting yourself into a corner.

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

i'm still on manny's side. it's the players that suck.

Posted by: longterm | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM

Nice post. Short and direct. Plus I agree with you.

Posted by: NatsNut

Well, like PT Barnum said, 'There's one born every minute, and I'm gonna make sure I take their money from them'.

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Touche, 506, and the league-average offense* would have had to have scored 11 to win, which they've done once all year (and by the way, they lost that one too).

Occasionally, to be a successful team, the pitching staff needs to, you know, successfully prevent runs from scoring, even when handed a mess. They are "relief" pitchers after all.

But I take your point - last night was a stinker all round - sort of to be expected after sitting around waiting for a game to be suspended, catching a cross-continent flight and then playing. Hopefully, they'll have a little better luck tonight.

* - by the way, "league average" as defined by their 124 runs in 1056 PA's with a .778 OPS (League Average is 124 Runs in 1048 PA's with a .745 OPS)

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | May 7, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

>"Isn't Hinckley a Lefty Specialist????"

He is. And Manny brought him in to face two right-handed batters. (one was a switch-hitter)

Great idea there, Manny.

Not one, BUT TWO RIGHT-HANDED HITTERS. And on top of that, his breaking pitch is his best pitch, and it breaks INTO right handers! See, if the guy had a good screwball or changeup, you could have him face righties! Acta's so god-awful dumb

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

>"1) Kershaw worked quickly and efficiently, in contrast to Cabrera."

Were you drunk while watching the game? He threw 100 pitches in 5 innings! That's not quite the model of efficiency!

Yeah, and you didn't see the Dodgers kicking the ball around, did you?

Fire Acta

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Fire Acta. Manny's side, for those of you all in NJ on it -- mostly Acata blood relatives, I would expect, is the losing side, night after night after night. Pick a new reason, pick a new player to fail and be blamed, pick a new shrug of the shoulders from Manny as to why it happened or as to how it will improve.

Maybe fielders are lulled into laziness by the walks? That is why the Nats can't catch and throw? That is Manny's pregame thought. Not thoughts of how the team might actually play well, but how it can lull itself into sloppy play. A key to the game was whether his players could stay focussed long enough to make a routine play? Lull-able players are a big concern?

Acta is a walking, talking Ambien. How about YOU get your fielders motivated Manny! This guy is Captain Lullaby himself, for crying out loud.

Acta is the losiest loser in Loserville. He needs a pink slip.

Posted by: dfh21 | May 7, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

"Rule #1 in the pros - you can't fire the team. See, they already tried that with the bullpen and it didn't work."

Rule #2 in the pros - so if your team sucks and you fire the manager, you get about a two week bounce. If you're lucky. Then your team still sucks and you're paying two managers, the one you fired and the interim guy.

Posted by: GalRevelsInPee | May 7, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Ironic that Bowden got fired over Smileygate but not the disaster that is the pitching staff. Sort of the way political Washington works - you can mess up over and over again with the big stuff but get nailed over some small transgression.

Of course, blowing millions of Uncle Ted's money on a fraudulent signing isn't exactly a small thing. But it pales in comparison to the makeup of this ballclub over his tenure.

Manny isn't blameless but good Lord who
was he gonna call last night? I don't have confidence in any of the righties in the pen - how low have we sunk that Hanrahan is looking good right now?

Geezer

Posted by: utec | May 7, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

JiM,
Funny and sage at the same time from a couple of posts back.
"But Scully could describe my day and make it seem like I do interesting things.

I don't.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 6, 2009 11:41 PM "

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | May 7, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I was going to post something before the game last night to the effect that while watching Cabrera pitch makes you want to pluck your eyeballs out, he's still moderately effective (ERA under 3.5 after the first disasterous start; keeping the team in the game, blah, blah, blah).

Upon further review, though, anything after "watching Cabrera pitch makes you want to pluck your eyeballs out" is purely superfluous.

Posted by: joebleux | May 7, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Too bad you can only fire Bowden once (sorry "accept resignation").

I suppose the decisions to let Redding go, not pay Odalis, and sign Cabrera were all separate and considered decisions. I'm not sure the decisions on Perez and Redding were wrong, but the decision on Cabrera seems unlikely to turn out well. I don't think they would be pulling the plug too early to release him now.

On paper he is no worse than Olsen, but I think most would agree that Olsen is a pitcher with potential while Cabrera is just an uncontrolled thrower. Since he also can't hit, run, or field, there is no reason to keep him on. Drop him now. If you don't want to bring up Balester or Stammen yet, then use O'Connor, Towers, or another stiff for a few weeks. At least the other players would not have to suffer.

Posted by: natbiscuits | May 7, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Great move by Manny in the game last night, BTW -- bases loaded, Ramirez at the plate. Manny -sprints- out to the mound, has a very few choice animated things to say to Cabrera (I believe along the lines of "I don't care if it is Manny bleeping Ramirez, go after this guy"), and jogs back to the dugout.

Cabrera pops (the other) Manny up on the first pitch (it was the weird pop-up that Belliard missed and then threw home for the force out).

Too bad Manny's limited to one pep talk per inning (Cabrera promptly walked the next batter to force in a run).

Posted by: joebleux | May 7, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

My prediction: By the end of this west-coast swing, Cabrerra will be on IR with some nonspecific ailment, Kensing will be released and we'll be back to musical chairs in the bullpen.

Posted by: mvm2 | May 7, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

>Rule #2 in the pros - so if your team sucks and you fire the manager, you get about a two week bounce. If you're lucky. Then your team still sucks and you're paying two managers, the one you fired and the interim guy.

Rule #3 - If you don't implement rule #1, then there's no way to know whether rule #2 is true.

Gotcha

Fire that idiot

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

So last night's errors were because Manny didn't motivate the players????

Genius.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 7, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

>So last night's errors were because Manny didn't motivate the players????

Genius.

It's because he didn't make them taking infield practice the day after a red-eye to California. How do I know that? Because he never makes them take infield. Just ask him!

You all really need to pay more attention.

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Chico: Not to upset the coverage apple cart, but have you considered lingering in SoCal on Friday to cover the SDSU-Air Force game? (Presuming the Chosen One is making his usual Friday night start). I for one would be willing to tolerate the AP gamer of the Nats-DBacks game to get your impressions of Strasburg.

Posted by: Bethesdangit | May 7, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and just FYI, brue and uncle teddy: both of the hitters that Hinckley faced, Fercal and Hudson, are switch hitters.

I suppose you would be having the same hysterics if Manny had brought in a righty (Whhaaaa!! How could he bring in a righty to face TWO lefties?! Whaaa!!!)

Posted by: joebleux | May 7, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"Rule #3 - If you don't implement rule #1, then there's no way to know whether rule #2 is true."

Sure there is. Just go to Tom Boswell, Maury Povich Distinguished Professor of History and Useless Statistics, and ask him about replacing Cal Ripken with Frank Robinson, or Sam Perlozzo with Dave Trembley, etc, etc, yada yada yada.

Indeed, the only time rule #2 is NOT true is when you're George Steinbrenner and have Billy Martin available as your personal manager slash yo-yo toy.

Posted by: GalRevelsInPee | May 7, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I wonder about Cabrera's health. Last night his fastball toppped out at 87-89 and the curve in the upper 70's, not breaking much and usually out of the zone. He threw an 0-2 curveball that just floated over the plate and got smacked for an easy base hit. I'm no pitching coach but on his last two pitches it looked like he was shotputting -- elbow tucked into the body and just shoving the ball towards the plate. Could this be another Tony Pena situation? Maybe they can't outright send him to the minors but I don't see three more starts like this. Not only is he uncomfortable on the mound, his plate appearances are just pathetic. He was jumping back from almost every pitch -- even when they were low and outside. He clearly has no confidence in his athletic skills.

Posted by: SackMan | May 7, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

>Oh, and just FYI, brue and uncle teddy: both of the hitters that Hinckley faced, Fercal and Hudson, are switch hitters.

Like I just said, Hinckley's best pitch is his curveball. The curveball breaks into right-handers. Disadvantage Hinckley. Now, their best hitting side might be the left side, I don't know, but one thing's for sure - Hinckley will be at a disadvantage regardless because of his out pitch being one you don't want to throw to righties unless you bury it at his feet. But Hinckley had neither the luxury of making them fish because the bases were juiced, nor does he have the ability to make that pitch look hittable like say, Jessie Orosco used to do. So he's got to rely on an average fastball, and a below average changeup. Managers are supposed to know this. Acta doesn't even know his own players.

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Three more starts for Cabrera? God help us. He's had all of Spring Training and over a month in the regular season and hasn't shown us any reason to keep him.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 7, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"So he's got to rely on an average fastball, and a below average changeup. Managers are supposed to know this. Acta doesn't even know his own players."

Sure he does. He knows they suck, and he knows they're all he's got to work with even though they do suck. He's not using Hinckley as a LOOGY or a specialist, he's using him as a relief pitcher because really what other choice does he have? Acta may or may not be a bad manager. How can you even tell when this sad lot is what he has to work with?

You'd fire Acta even though he may or may not be a bad manager. To put you in Manny's position, how would you feel if the bartender cut you off because you may or may not already be drunk?

Posted by: GalRevelsInPee | May 7, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

>Sure there is. Just go to Tom Boswell, Maury Povich Distinguished Professor of History and Useless Statistics, and ask him about replacing Cal Ripken with Frank Robinson, or Sam Perlozzo with Dave Trembley, etc, etc, yada yada yada.

Well, this team does something different wrong every night. You can say the bullpen is a glaring weakness, and it's definitely below par, but there are more than a few lousy bullpens in the league, (did you see Houston's?! They might even be worse!) so what you're looking at is a breakdown by the whole team. They let popups drop in because the second baseman is too fat to call off the first baseman, they screw up easy three-hoppers because they don't take infield, it never ends. They get uptight in clutch situations with men on. It all starts at the top unfortunately.
This team has so much more talent than the '05 team did it's ridiculous.

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

>You'd fire Acta even though he may or may not be a bad manager.

No, YOU don't know whether Acta's a bad manager. Don't project your confusion onto me. Because I'm surely not confused about the situation. Not in the least.

Posted by: Brue | May 7, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

To me, the Nationals look like a mediocre team that is being badly coached and managed, resulting in a mediocre team that doesn't live up to even that level of billing. Over the past year I've grown to feel, like a lot of people, that Manny Acta just isn't a very good in-game manager and that whomever was/is evaluating the pitchers just doesn't know what they're doing.

Guzman got his contract, now we get to repeat his first 3 years here, defensively at least. Defensively the catchers aren't very good, 2B is a joke, and the outfield is mediocre. Johnson and Zimmerman are good defensive players but that's about it for this team. As for the errors, I would have these guys taking infield for 20 minutes before every game.

Posted by: kingrob76 | May 7, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I said it earlier in a post on this blog and i'll say it again they come back from this west coast swing 1-7 and Manny will be gone bullpen or no bullpen listen he's a nice enough guy but a big league manager? NO! this team has more talent then the 05 squad that finished 81-81 forget F.Robby this team should be in third place in their division and with someone else at the helm they would be,Acta doesn't inspire confidence everybody feels just fine and dandy being eleven games under .500 they keep making the same dumb azz mistakes time and again last night Manny Ramierez hit a fly ball that falls between Belliard, NJ, and Kearns thanfully Belliard had the good sense to throw out the Dodger base runner but fundamentally sound teams don't let that happen it happened a few games back between Guzman and Dukes, what in the name of Willie Mays is going on what was Manny and coach's doing during spring training? The bullpen has blown lead after lead if i were Manny me and the Saint would have a closed door come to Jesus meeting.The hitting has been for the most part very good with the exception of bases loaded situations(they need to be swinging on the first pitch especially after a walk to load the bases)you shouldn't change for change sake but change in this case would be the right thing to do.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 7, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Do we have to know that Acta is fundamentally bad before he is sent packing? Like scientificly prove it beoynd doubt? Come on.

Lousy fielding, lousy baserunning, can't get a bunt down, can't find the strike zone, can't get a timely hit, can't make a play, can't just go after the hitters, can't, can't, can't . . . The team has played poorly under his leadership now for 200+ games! He's made suspect in-game moves and personnel decisions that have not panned-out. The roster is the roster, the level of play, no matter who Manny has employed, has been more bad than good.

What reason is there for Acta to keep this job?

Posted by: dfh21 | May 7, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

No reason for Acata to keep his job unless of course he has a clause in the old contract that says if he gets canned he still gets paid, thats usually a non starter in the LernerStan camp.

Who says Caberra has 3 starts left, Chico?
Its sort of a give-me every 5 days with that guy. Hey look at the bright side they get three in AZ and then three in SF maybe they win 2.

Frustration continues to rule the roost!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 7, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

hinckley was trying to throw a curveball

Posted by: bford1kb | May 7, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

nevermind, crazy to lose the grip on the fastball

Posted by: bford1kb | May 7, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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