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A Disparity In Speed

The Rays, as they demonstrated last night, are good at stealing bases. So good, that Manny Acta says, "you pretty much can't stop [them]." This year, as a team, the Rays have 101 stolen bases -- 34 more than the next-best team in baseball. Sort the MLB team SB leaders, and gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is equal to the gap between No. 2 and No. 22.

Tampa's stolen base ability, of course, is only partly reflected by the raw number. The team is also tops in the majors in stolen base percentage. Tampa runners have been caught stealing just 18 times. The team also, then, has the top MLB success rate (84.9 percent.)

Nobody thought, entering the season, that the Nats would rely much on stolen bases, so I don't use this as another way to malign them. But just for comparison, your local ballclub has 19 SB this year (29th in the majors) and a 59.4-percent success rate (29th in the majors). They've been caught stealing 13 times -- or five fewer than the Rays... while attempting 87 fewer steals.

OK, so maybe I malign them just a little bit. Elijah Dukes is 2-for-8 on the basepaths this year.

If you want a reminder of how speed, when applied properly, can change a game, just watch the Rays. When B.J. Upton (20-for-25) or Carl Crawford (36-for-39) reaches base, they'll usually try to steal. The key then? "Stop them from stealing first base," Acta said. "Keep them off the bases."

Yesterday, Tampa stole five -- yes, five -- bases against the Nats, who did not, um, keep Upton or Crawford off the bases. For evidence of why this hurt, look no further than the third inning, where Upton singled, then stole second. Then Crawford was hit by a pitch. With Evan Longoria up, the duo tried a double steal. Upton took off for third, getting a ridiculous jump against Nats pitcher Craig Stammen. ("He pretty much stole that off me," Stammen said. "That's my fault.")

Catcher Josh Bard gunned a throw toward the third base bag. But it was several feet too high for Ryan Zimmerman and sailed into left field. Upton scored. It was an unearned run. And what do you know, the Nats lost by one.

Said Acta: "You can't stop Crawford and you won't be able to stop Upton, regardless of how good of a catcher you are. The best way to stop them is to keep them off the bases. And walking them and hitting them, that's not gonna help. Obviously it showed."

By Chico Harlan  |  June 13, 2009; 8:17 AM ET
 
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Comments

"The best way to stop them is to keep them off the bases."

that's funny because my wife just said "the best way to stop the Nats from losing was to keep Acta off the bench".

Go P NATS! A Doubleheader sweep of Frederick last night... Now if only Lynchburg could lose a few games so the P Nats could catch them in the standings.

Posted by: PNatsFan | June 13, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Acta is a fool...."regardless of who is catching"......Bard cost us the game and two runs. Not the first time.......Does not matter who is catching? Manny just go back to sleep....you have done enough damage to this team in less than 3 years to last a lifetime.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a fan of his defense, but there were other culprits in addition to Bard (I'm thinking of Nick Johnson and the ump behind the dish).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 13, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Nick Johnson sure he had a bad game but those plays are the exception and he hits. Bard....your defending Bard and not the primary problem EVERYTIME he steps behind the plate? Really?

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Could you imagine LaRussa, Cox or Torre saying "you pretty much can't stop them"?

Posted by: truke | June 13, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Manny Acta says, "you pretty much can't stop [them]."

Uh, Manny, it's your team's job to try to stop them. You know, their JOB? Like, the thing they're getting paid insane amounts of (our) money for?

Acta cannot leave this organization soon enough for me. The nightly soul-crushing begins, for me, with his "what, me worry?" attitude.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | June 13, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

PNatsFan
"Go P NATS! A Doubleheader sweep of Frederick last night... Now if only Lynchburg could lose a few games so the P Nats could catch them in the standings."

The only good thing about the Nats being so awful is that it has focused me more on minor league baseball. I guess I started going because I wanted to know more about the team's growth so that I could manufacture hope in the face of suck stinkitude. Now, I have to say that one of the few fun things about being a Nats fan is the opportunity to watch players like Jordan Zimmermann close to home with an organization that has to promote players quickly out of desperation. Watching JZimm last year you felt you were looking at a guy who has better than high A talent and that gave me some hope that all is not lost.

For anyone that gets depressed about the conservatism in the basepaths, Manny Acta press conferences, and snakebit nature of the big club, treat it as a sign from the heavens to invest more dollars [the Lerners don't appear to want to spend my dollars anyway] and time in the kids at Hagerstown and Potomac rather than pull your hair out over the vets.

Maybe if the season ticket list is longer at Woodbridge plus Hagerstown than Nats Park the penurious Lerners will get it that they have to show some moxie with personnel and managerial syle if they want to continue to reap the profits they hold so dear.

Posted by: souldrummer | June 13, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Maybe my standards are out of line but I hate seeing bad defense more than anything else from a team. I really like the existing starting five pitchers, I feel like they have a chance to win every game. However, when you have a defense that will give up one to three runs a night (earned and unearned) on bad plays no pitching staff will survive this. If you think of pitch counts for starters as an out per pitch ratio then the extra 3 outs or so will result in lots of extra pitches. Thinking of this in another way, if an offense has to have two or three extra runs to compensate for the runs it gives away then it will find itself behind night after night. So why is the concept of defense so abhorrent to this front office?

Posted by: driley | June 13, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Langerhans up (and Patterson if he can play defense). DFA Kearns, leave Dunn in left field. Let Dukes rotate between CF and RF or just RF if someone else can play CF full time. Just get people in the right positions so they can get comfortable there. This rotating between LF and RF and RF and CF must be hard on them.

I almost would rather see them trade Guzman for a average hit-great glove SS. Maybe the same for 2B. A little sacrifice of offense for the sake of defense and the confidence of a very young pitching staff.

driley is right, our defense is really adding to the pitch counts.

Posted by: derwink | June 13, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Acta continues to stare into the abyss and his only retort is, "You can't stop Crawford and you won't be able to stop Upton, regardless of how good of a catcher you are. The best way to stop them is to keep them off the bases. And walking them and hitting them, that's not gonna help."

Which part of the FO doesn't get it that this guy is clueless?

Listened to Met fans screaming all night on WFAN for Manuels and Minaya scalp after the latest Met meltdown. Imagine that!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 13, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who has read any of my posts knows I'm a huge Rob Dibble fan. But last night made me question Dibbs bigtime. Guy was so freakin condescending it was unreal.

He made it seem like the Nats are some kinda retarded team who should just be glad they can come out and kinda compete against the Rays.
Last I looked the Rays were barely at .500 and were still just a major league team like the rest of the teams.

But now according to Dibble, we should be glad that the poor Sisters of the Nats just come out and play hard and keep it close. Cause their players aren't earning millions of dollars to play big league baseball?? Give me a freakin break!!!

Get a grip Dibble. The team stinks. The manager stinks. And they are a big league team that stinks. Losing by a run to the Mights Rays (yea right) on an error is not a noble achievement!!

Posted by: dovelevine | June 13, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone studied how best to build the Nats within low-budgets? The Rays, Oakland, Twins and Marlins seem to build respectably with low budgets. They consistently are around .500 and some years can challenge for it all. (Other small-budget teams like KC and the Pirates never seem to do much.)

What strategies should the Nats employ to get to the success levels of these clubs, and still stay within their small budget parameters?

Posted by: EdDC | June 13, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

When the Nats finally DFA Kearns, I hope Jorge Padilla gets a shot. I don't care if he is pushing 30 -- he's hitting over .350 at Syracuse and playing RF. If he hasn't earned a look with that, why he is still there? (Langerhans, on the other hand, is under .250.)

And the next time the Nats need a starter in an emergency, why not try J.D. Martin, another guy who's kicked around but is putting it together with the Chiefs: 7-2 w/ a WHIP under 1.

There's absolutely nothing to lose at this point.

Posted by: nats24 | June 13, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

How did you get from my posting that I was defending Bard, because I wasn't. My point was that there were a number of culprits in the loss.

---

Nick Johnson sure he had a bad game but those plays are the exception and he hits. Bard....your defending Bard and not the primary problem EVERYTIME he steps behind the plate? Really?

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 9:00 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 13, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I should know better than to try to reason on here, though.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 13, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with driley. NJ may not have been called for an error, but, in my opinion, his non-play on the ball that went to the corner along with the missed pop cost us the game. We constantly fail to make plays that need to be made. Maybe it is coaching, but we are never going to win with our current defense.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | June 13, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Every lose has lots of "culprits". My point is by deflecting blame from Bard you are hurt the team. The point is to focus on "repeat culprits" that also add no value to the offense. Bard is All Bad...that is the type of player we should focus on and DFA......Kearns is also in the same boat as Bard....Belliard too as was DCab and Soooooooo many others that Acta pushed on us this year but thankfully are gone now. Is any of the DFA doing anything for anybody else?

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Edgardo Baez-CF, Ian Desmond-SS. Bring them up from Double A.
And when I see that even natsfan1a1, who is consistently positive and kind in her postings, getting frustrated with this forum, I know why I stopped commenting (until now) months ago.
Jeeves

Posted by: jcampbell1 | June 13, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Again, I did not deflect blame from him. I stated that there also others whose defense was poor in the game. Furthermore, any statements that you or I or anyone else might make on a blog have no power to either help or hurt the team. We can posit all we want to about who should be DFA'ed or who shouldn't, but that won't affect the outcome because our opinions on the matter likely do not factor into FO decision-making. But if it makes you feel better, focus and blame away.

---

Every lose has lots of "culprits". My point is by deflecting blame from Bard you are hurt the team. The point is to focus on "repeat culprits" that also add no value to the offense. Bard is All Bad...that is the type of player we should focus on and DFA......Kearns is also in the same boat as Bard....Belliard too as was DCab and Soooooooo many others that Acta pushed on us this year but thankfully are gone now. Is any of the DFA doing anything for anybody else?

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 12:56 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 13, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it is the forum that is the problem. Poster have taken all the fun out of baseball in DC. Nats, Acta specifically and Ownerships failures the past 3 years had nothing to do with it.

Right......

Oh and I stopped posting her for the most part because I stopped going to the games. I am watching only about 25% of this trash......I will not return to the Nats park until July....I sold (at a loss) all my tickets for May and June....just hoping Acta is fired before July.

Oh and yes.....DFA Kearns, Belliard, Bard, and get some young players up here with their manager....what is the point of this current approach anyway?

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1a1, you are absolutely killing this team. DFA yourself now.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 13, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

JayBee, please, what language are you trying to write in?

I completely understand your expressions of frustration against Bard, Acta, the FO, the team. But why oh why must you go on at natsfan1a1 like this? She is not "hurt the team," as you so ungrammatically put it, with any of her posts.

And if you're going to do attack other posters, why not do it in language that is comprehensible?

Posted by: shepdave2003 | June 13, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Furthermore, natsfan1a1, you never comment unless you know what you're talking about and you go weeks without a typo. We'll have none of that here!

Posted by: nunof1 | June 13, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

My only point was to keep the focus on the real problems. Bard is a real problem....Nick is not.....1a1 I am sure takes no offense in me pointing out that by sharing the blame on all she takes the focus off the real problems.

You do not improve until you can focus on the real issues. By saying oh well everyone is playing poorly you just perpetuate the acceptance of losing which is the Acta way and why he is the biggest problem here.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 13, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

And if we here on planet NJ can keep our focus clearly on the real problems of the Nats, we will cause definite improvement.

Because people in the front office will dig deep into these comment threads, read what we say here, and go, "Oh, we never thought of it that way before."

(eyes roll)

Posted by: shepdave2003 | June 13, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Said Acta: "You can't stop Crawford and you won't be able to stop Upton, regardless of how good of a catcher you are. The best way to stop them is to keep them off the bases."
=============================================
And the second-best way is to intentionally walk the slowest, lead-footed, portliest player batting ahead of Crawford and Upton in the current half-inning to serve as a sort of senior-citizen-in-the-fast-lane kind of speed barrier.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | June 13, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

JayBeee: I don't think 1a1 was "deflecting" blame from Bard - she simply pointed out that there was more than enough to go around last night. What she failed to notice before posting her reply was that it was you she was responding to.

And of course, you, always the pitbull of this forum, seized upon the reply as an opportunity to drive home a repeated point on your latest target, Bard.

There are multiple "real problems" with the current roster - The defense is less-than-average, the bullpen is unreliable, the hitting with men-on-base is horrific, etc. Truth told, there are probably only 10 players on the current 25-man that should be playing (or pitching) regularly in the NL (RZim, Flores, Dukes, Willingham, Lannan, JZimm, Martis, Beimel, Villone, Bergmann) with 2-3 others who could hack it in the AL (Guzman, Dunn, NJohnson) as a core. Given that current core, there are still too many points of probable failure on this team to expect consistent wins.

Whose fault is it? From the FO, to the Manager & staff, to the players, everybody has a piece of this. Singling out an individual for scorn might make you feel better, but doesn't give a real remedy for the problem.

end rant

Posted by: BinM | June 13, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

new post

Posted by: shepdave2003 | June 13, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

You're a funny guy, nunof!

---

natsfan1a1, you are absolutely killing this team. DFA yourself now.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 13, 2009 1:15 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 13, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Dunn k's to end the inning.

To start the Rays half, Upton reaches on a Johnson error, then steals second.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 13, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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