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Fastballs, Nothin' But Fastballs

I've been meaning for a few days to post something about the Nats' flamethrowing one-pitch wonder, Mike MacDougal. His last few outings, I've been charting his pitch selection -- or rather, the startling lack of pitch selection.

Anyway, here's the story.

On June 5, long before Mike MacDougal became the Washington Nationals' closer, and certainly long before the Nationals reached the state of advanced competence where they actually needed a closer, Manager Manny Acta pulled his newest right-hander from the Citi Field bullpen to face New York's Gary Sheffield. MacDougal, making just his fourth appearance with the Nationals, was ordered to throw nothing but fastballs. He threw three of them -- boomerangs, diving and swerving, all either 96 or 97 mph. Sheffield struck out on three pitches.

That night, in retrospect, explains much about MacDougal's unpredictable rise, all predicated on perhaps the most predictable pitch selection in baseball. MacDougal, armed with a ferocious fastball, now throws almost nothing else. Over his last four appearances, which include two save chances, MacDougal has thrown 62 pitches -- and 60 fastballs. His only exceptions: a June 16 slider to Nick Swisher, of the New York Yankees, and a June 17 pitchout. Last night, when MacDougal threw two more scoreless innings, lowering his ERA with Washington to 0.84, he threw 19 pitches and, yes, 19 fastballs.

Though Acta said that MacDougal is permitted to throw other pitches -- he has a decent slider, and will sometimes mix in a curve -- the manager also added, "From day one I said, Hey, you've got a very good fastball. You shouldn't be trying to trick guys."

MacDougal has always had the velocity. But he hasn't always had the confidence. In April of this year, while bottoming out with the Chicago White Sox, eventually earning his release, the 32-year-old former all star threw his slider more than 50 percent of the time. "It was my best pitch," MacDougal said today.

That changed when MacDougal signed a minor league deal with the Nationals and headed to Class AAA Syracuse. Then-Chiefs' pitching coach Steve McCatty, now in the same role with Washington, had some advice: In short, your best pitch is good enough to carry your career.

"Just with Cat, up in Syracuse," MacDougal said, "he knew I had the fastball and the movement, and so much of it is confidence. I didn't have as much confidence in it as before, so he really helped me out with that."

By Chico Harlan  |  June 21, 2009; 12:50 PM ET
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repeat post ...

Looks like Tyler Clippard is on his way to DC (or already here) ... transactions has him listed as being recalled today. A replacement for Colome is my guess

Posted by: Brian_ | June 21, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

**sigh** another "manny being manager" lineup featuring austin powerless batting fifth. why not just bat martis there if axta is so determined to see his offense dive off a cliff after the dunnkey?

Posted by: surly_w | June 21, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't Willie Harris batting fifth? He's driven in more runs than Kearns since the beginning of May.

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 21, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Arg, new-posted.

Little-known facts about Willie Harris:

China once bordered the United States, until Willie Harris told them to back off.
Willie Harris doesn’t need a gun to hunt. He has been known to throw a bullet through an adult bull elk.
Willie Harris only wears a batting helmet for style, because baseballs are afraid to hit him in the head.
One time while sparring with a bear, Willie Harris raised his fists and the bear proceeded to eat himself, because it would be the less painful way to die.
Willie Harris is the reason Santa Claus still exists.
Willie Harris can divide by zero.
Willie Harris is actually Keyser Söze.
Willie Harris can slam a revolving door.
Manny Acta is so calm because Willie Harris once told him, "Don't worry, I got your back."
Willie Harris’s house is actually a log home that he built himself. Some logs he cut with an axe, the other logs only wished he had.
Willie Harris wears contact lenses lest his uncontrollable optic blasts slaughter everyone.
Willie Harris has caused a run on grocery stores for boxes of Depends by pants-wetting Toronto Blue Jays batters.
Willie Harris can start a fire by rubbing two ice cubes together.
Willie Harris doesn’t worry about changing his clock twice a year for daylight savings time. The sun rises and sets when Willie tells it to.
When in doubt, umps ask Willie Harris.
Willie Harris once hit a bases-empty grand slam.
On a pickoff throw.
While he was in the on-deck circle.
Chuck Norris is afraid of Willie Harris.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 21, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the two phony umpires have learned to be afraid of Willie Harris, too.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 21, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

kearns can't even THROW any more!

Posted by: surly_w | June 21, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

gilbert: Brilliant! More tidbits for the Willie Harris "legend" files - 1a1, are you seeing this?

Posted by: BinM | June 21, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Martis doesn't have it today. Better fire Manny.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 21, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Martis is horrible today. I guess four in a row is as good as our streak will get.

And CB Bucknor is not very good either. I'd rather see one of the fake umps behind the plate.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Kearns will be 0-4 today with at least one strikeout. And Zimmerman will strike out at least once more today.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Go Willie!!!!

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Smoke and mirrors is just that, can't locate any of his pitch's horrible control. The "face of the franchise" can't get the ball out of the infield in fact it would be nice if he could get his bat on the ball,nice hit Willie! better stroke Josh!!.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 21, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Lot of time left, heck, they're only down by 3 in the SECOND inning.
Keep thinking positive.

Posted by: patchss | June 21, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris once broke an aluminum bat.
Over his knee.

When people say Willie Harris "tore the cover off the ball," they mean literally.

The poem was originally called "Willie at the Bat," but nobody believed "Mighty Willie has struck out."

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 21, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

took them long enough to notice Clippard down there in Syracuse. He's been absolutely dominant there as a reliever.

Posted by: MrMadison | June 21, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Man, some wild defense out there, nicely done!

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

With Colome being healthy enough to pitch today, that clouds the Olsen issue a lot. It pushes the Nationals into 1) either DFA'ing Wells, Colome or Hanrahan from the bullpen, 2) sending one of the current SP's (Stammen, Detwiler, or JZimm) back to SYR, or 3) cutting the bench by DFA'ing either Kearns or Belliard.

Tough choices, glad I'm not the one who has to make them.

Posted by: BinM | June 21, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

So Colome's obviously ok... so who's spot is Clippard taking?

Posted by: sammoMD | June 21, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Clippard was never activated, not at the ballpark!

Posted by: bbmom1 | June 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The "face of the franchise" can't even move a runner over in an attempt to draw his team closer, DAMN! looking at too many pitch's, guessing at the plate and i don't want to hear about stats when comparing him to David Wright Zimmerman does not get the "BIG HITS" when they matter.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 21, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Zimm strikes out...again.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Looking, no less...

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Too many called third strikes!

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Zim is so streaky

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 21, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

C'mon Gonzo...just get on base...

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

So it looks like Clippard is on his way up. Who goes down (or goes away, as in DFA'd)?

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

So Colome pitched today, Clippard obviously not coming up to replace him. Clippard being traded perhaps?

Posted by: nunof1 | June 21, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

We'll hopefully know more during NatsXtra, a roster move teaser bullet point was in the "coming up" list...

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, keep telling us that Kearns is in a "slump." Last time I checked slumps don't last for two years. He's frigging done just say it.

Posted by: RickFelt | June 21, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, Rick, Kearns is the definition of Nubbinal...

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Hanrahan is ruining any chances of a possible comeback. Two outs, and he can't get the third out. Which, by the way, is the same thing Martis did in the first...

Another single. I'm done.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

hey gang...Gas Canrahan,,,,,,return to reality. Go Nats..........

Posted by: zendo | June 21, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

We all knew the better pitching couldn't last forever. But where has the offense been? All four wins were really close and we scored five runs or less in each of them. Like zendo says, back to reality.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Willingham should've started if anything

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 21, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Hanrahan killed us...

And, btw, "Nick the Machine" is the worst nickname of all time.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 21, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

if it wasn't for Hanrah-can't, NJ would represent the tying run.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

At the very least it would be nice to see Zimmerman get a hit here and carry that into the Boston series.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 21, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Just a guess on the Clippard thing - he was told to go to Washington last night just in case Colome did not feel like he could pitch today. When Colome was OK, my guess is Clippard goes back to Syracuse without ever being activated.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | June 21, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I think you are right about the Clippard move, unless they make a move (DFA) Hanrahan!

Posted by: bbmom1 | June 21, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I see with a loss the second guessers come back out. What a surprise (not).

Tyler Clippard will probably be up soon enough as they have to shut down Detwiler, Stammen, Mardis, and Zimmermann.

Posted by: natsguy | June 21, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Can the Nats just DFA GasCanrahan and put themselves and their fans out of our respective miseries? The stubborn refusal to move GasCan smacks of the philosophy of the deposed general manager - he may have the tools to be a major league closer but he just can't execute. The Nats need to cut ties with "project" players and move on.

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 21, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The offense is back to sucking... leaving way too many runners on base and every inning we threatened, then hit into a DP.

Get rid of Kearns and Hanrahan!

Posted by: rachel216 | June 21, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey gang...yea DFA "I Stink" and at least send Gascanrahan to AAA. And even tho the throw from "I Stink" was weak-Bard was-as usual set up in a poor position to make the tag. Too far from the line. Is he capable of making a play at the plate? Also-any ideas on why Gonzalez was at 2nd for Hernandez? Ah,,,,,,2 series vics-AND Manny actually came outta the dugout!Go Nats!

Posted by: zendo | June 21, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

And watching Zim for the past week has been really painful. Strikes out looking every single game, not even being agressive or trying to make contact.

Posted by: rachel216 | June 21, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Sad, very sad. Austin Kearns is done. He is not going to "get going." Ever. No matter how many more chances you give him, he's a .200 hitter with almost no power who usually hustles and plays decently in the field. The minor leagues are full of those guys. They do not start in right field on a major league team. Everyone knows this except for management it appears. He has no future with this team, and no trade value. He doesn't deserve a single additional at bat this year, much less to bat fifth or pinch hit in a game deciding situation. Enough. You are insulting your fans every time you put him on the field.

And Hanrahan needs to go too. If he can't hold a team in a total non pressure situation, why is he even on the roster? We have a reliever who is worth a look up here in this lost season (Clippard). Let's get on with it.

That felt good.

Posted by: Section222 | June 21, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

4 in a row and 2 series in a row. Gotta feel good about that at least. And against AL East teams. Makes this loss less painful.

Kearns is beyond a distraction now. DFA him please, please, please.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 21, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Loved the list, gilbert! Thanks for the heads up, BinM.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

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