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Maybe I Was the Problem

Yesterday was my first day in my new role, and therefore, Alexa Steele's first day as baseball editor. The Nats bucked all odds and won a game. I am trying not to see a connection but if I was the problem -- problem solved.

I just wanted to pop on here one more time as "blogmom" and tell you all how much I enjoyed getting to know the personalities behind the crazy user names on Nats Journal. I'll be writing soon and doing other "webby" things, so please join me in those endeavors. In the meantime, take good care of Chico and Alexa and Boz and Dave and Cam and CJ and all the baseball crew. My best to you all...

By Tracee Hamilton  |  June 18, 2009; 8:49 AM ET
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Next: A Wet Thursday


I was looking at the CBS Sportsline preview of the game this afternoon and was surprised at just how badly the top of our order has been slumping recently. I'd love to see the splits of how our lineup fared before and after the team's steroid dealer got busted a few weeks back.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 18, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks and best of luck. I really enjoyed reading your stuff.

Posted by: johnnybaconbitz | June 18, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

You could never be the problem, Tracee. Thanks for all of your contributions here and good luck to you. Will watch for your writing and other webby endeavors. Don't be a stranger to NJ - you're part of the family now.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and welcome to Alexa.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for everything, Tracee - and best of luck. I'm sure that you will enjoy it!

OTH, who knew? First we thought JimBo was the problem, then the Lerner's were cheap, then we had to fire all the other coaches, and finally we demanded the head of Manny -when really we just needed a new baseball editor.

Here's to Tracee relishing her writing gig and the Nats realing off a 10 game winning streak!

Posted by: lowcountry | June 18, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

umm . . . that would be "reeling," of course.

Posted by: lowcountry | June 18, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse


Oh, I'll take care Of Cheeks alright!

Have fun doing your new stuff.

Posted by: Section138 | June 18, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

thanks and good luck tracee.

i think joba chamberlain is an idiot.

Posted by: longterm | June 18, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Tracee, if you were the problem, didn't you just jinx today's game? Get me Vegas on the phone...

Posted by: twinbrook | June 18, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

boy, ron villone is having a rough week.

Posted by: longterm | June 18, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Tracee - best fo luck in the new role. We'll miss our blogmom, even if our blogstepmom lets us stay up late and watch ballgames.

Back on the Lannan/McCatty/St.Claire thing from the previous post, as much as I'd like to support a "McCatty RULEZ!" argument, I don't think it's quite true that Lannan's pitched "much better" since Saint left. He's had a good three-game run since Saint left (his best three game run of the year), but he's had similar good runs. So far, since Saint left, he's got 23.1 IP, 5R, 3ER, 6BB, and 8K. 5/9, 5/15, and 5/20, Lannan pitched 18.2 IP, 4R, 4ER, 9BB and 9K. If you go back a little further, 4/11, 4/17, and 4/22 he pitched 19.1 IP, 5R, 5ER, 6BB and 15K.

So he's on a good three-game run right now, but he's been on similar runs so far this year, and I don't think it's true to say that it's because Saint left or owing to McCatty. What is interesting is that if you look at his IP, he had had only two outings previously of 7 IP, and none of more than 7, and now, since McCatty's come in, he's had two out of three outings where he's gone more than 7 (actually, more than 8) and one where he went 6. That may be due to McCatty being more comfortable with letting guys go deeper in games, but it's also about Lannan being more efficient with his pitches - while his IP have gone up, his pitches really haven't. In this three-game run, he's averaged 97.3 pitches per game. In the May three-game run, he averaged 99, despite throwing 4.2 less innings, and in April, averaged 97, despite throwing 4 less innings. So, it does seem like he's been more efficient with his pitches this time through, which may be a result of McCatty encouraging him to pitch to contact.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | June 18, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

>So, it does seem like he's been more efficient with his pitches this time through, which may be a result of McCatty encouraging him to pitch to contact.

His stuff is better. He's ignoring that big sweeping breaking ball he could never throw for strikes. Works quicker, and is sticking to his fastball-change-cutter routine. The big breaking ball affected his fastball, imo, because it messed up his arm slot because he'd have to drop down to throw the breaker. He was only throwing about 86 mph (for strikes) before, and now he's throwing 90 for strikes, whereas before there's no way he could locate it before. He's basically staying in the sam arm slot with all his pitches, so they look the same coming out of his hand.

Posted by: Brue | June 18, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Tracee - Good luck in your new gig, remember to keep Meatloaf on you iPod, and thanks for all the fish.

Posted by: BinM | June 18, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Carrying forward this little news tidbit:

Just saw a note over on nats320 that Nats designated bobbleheads for this year will be Adam Dunn on the 8th, and Frank Howard on the 22nd of August (as reported in an updated Bog post per nats320). Gotta get a Hondo bobble if that's so!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 8:54 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Good riddance! After what you did to the Nationals you should be ashamed to show your face around here. What possible excuse could you have for making the team go sixteen and forty-seven? You get nothing! You lose! Good day sir!

Posted by: tailwagger | June 18, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Laughing out loud here, tailwagger.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

H295R: I think it is McCatty and his "old school" thinking. I think St. Claire is a VERY good pitching coach and his 21st century approach has great value. But there comes a point when you just have to trust your stuff and just throw it. I think we've raised a generation of pitchers who grew up with Greg Maddux strike zones and umpires who allowed that Maddux-type of expanding the zone. So these kids nibble on the corners waaay too much. Add in the fear of pitching inside in the college game because of cheap metal bat hits and you have kids who just don't know how to pitch.

One more thing: I HATE the phrase "pitching to contact". Although I'm not quite an old geezer yet, it seems in my day we had a different term for pitching to contact. It was called "throwing strikes".

Anyway, I think McCatty's philosophy is freeing up these young guys to rock and fire. I wish we'd signed a Predo Martinez or similar veteran with Pedro's kind of cockiness... it might have saved St. Claire's job...

Posted by: outsider6 | June 18, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Here's hoping we hear you soon on a Mr.Tony show. That chick chair ain't a chick chair without our dear Ms. Tracee seatin' in it. Take it easy or take it anyway you can get it...

Posted by: Berndaddy | June 18, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Best wishes Tracee. I hope you pop in for a 'guestblog' from time to time.

Welcome to the Jungle Alexa. We got fun and games...soon these bozos will want you fired too.

Lannan looked great last night. Watching him work fast I think kept the Yanks a little off balance. I was miffed when the ump called time for Alex Rodriguez when McDougal was already in his motion to the plate. Dibble's call for a pitchout was spot on too. Exciting game to watch!

The flavor of the day is Jolly-Olly Orange.

Posted by: dand187 | June 18, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Not to put a stop to the Tracee farewells, but there's a new post up with morning readings and weather report.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Re: Lannan's success since McCatty -
A big part of this is due to Lannan taking the role of staff leader (hard to use the term "ace") since the rest of the rotation are rookies. His efficiency is critical because the others aren't pitching deep into games and the impact on the bullpen has been clear to all of us.

Lannan's shown me character in this role, and hopefully his recent attacking style (attributable to McCatty or not) will rub off on the youngsters. Pitching ahead in the count is critical at any level, but especially when you're a youngster and falling behind in the count often results in a fattie over the plate.

I'll also agree with Brue about the sweeping curve (still a good one, in itself) and the impact of the arm angle with his fastball. Same spot, makes that 88-90 mph look a bit faster (sneakier) and jumps on the hitter a bit, and is really spotting it well (right at the knees).

Posted by: mo_dc | June 18, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"The big breaking ball affected his fastball, imo, because it messed up his arm slot because he'd have to drop down to throw the breaker. He was only throwing about 86 mph (for strikes) before, and now he's throwing 90 for strikes, whereas before there's no way he could locate it before. He's basically staying in the sam arm slot with all his pitches, so they look the same coming out of his hand."

Brue, don't mean to pick on your lyin' eyes, but that's not what the stats say - if you go and check the PitchFX charts at fangraphs, Lannan doesn't change his release point much at all - his slider comes out hair more horizontal than his other stuff, but they are all very tightly grouped, release-wise.

Besides that, the charts also don't suggest an increase in velocity (for strikes or otherwise) - his FB is in general a teensy bit faster this year (87.8mph on average as compared to 87.6 last year), but the big difference looks like he's throwing a two-seamer this year (or that the pitch/FX is recognizing it as a two-seamer this year). With that, he's actually throwing a lot less four-seamers this year (51% as opposed to 63% last year) - even including the two seamers, he's still lower. The game charts look like he's thrown a few more FBs recently, and the results have been a bit better - he thre 60.3% strikes in the first 11 pre-McCatty starts this year, and has thrown 64% strikes in the last three.

For all that, though, you'd expect if there were some change in his arm slot to make his motion more deceptive, that you'd see that in people being fooled for strikes - and that hasn't really been the case. In the three games since McCatty's come in, he's thrown 292 pitches - he's had exactly 12 swings-and-misses. Around 60% of his strikes are foul balls. That's ok - as I said before, he's not a strikeout guy. People aren't really being fooled, they're just successfully beating his stuff into the ground, which is what he should want.

I just think this is a case where we want to credit McCatty for improving something that was already good. I do think, though that McCatty's emphasis on throwing strikes and taking your chances is showing some impact - 64% strikes vs. 60% strikes is an important little uptick - and that's also led to an increase in the number of ground balls he's gotten and not surprisingly to an increase in IP.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | June 18, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Tracee, Thanks very much for everything and welcome to Alexa (we're only scary en masse). And, Tracee, I'm sure Alexa (she has kind eyes) will let you come over to play every once in awhile.

Posted by: greggwiggins | June 18, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Ah, we love you, Tracee. You're always welcome here at NJ.

Don't forget us littles!

Posted by: JohninMpls | June 18, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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