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On Handling the Starters

Here is a list, free of context:

June 6, 2009 -- John Lannan, vs. NYM (9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 96 pitches)
May 2, 2009 -- Shairon Martis, vs. STL (9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 110 pitches)
July 5, 2009 -- Scott Olsen, vs. ATL (8-2/3 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 116 pitches)
June 17, 2009 -- John Lannan, vs. NYY (8-1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 108 pitches)

Okay, so what is this? A list of the Washington's deepest starting pitching performances in the last two months?

Well, yes. But it's also the list of the deepest starting pitching performances of the Manny Acta ERA. In other words: The four longest outings in Acta's 402-game tenure have all come within the last 48 games. And three have come in the month-plus since Steve McCatty (he of the man-up/be-accountable philosophy) took over as pitching coach. And all have come since Mike Rizzo took over the general manager's office.

After yesterday's game, I asked Acta if he'd changed his philosophy about starting pitchers.

He responded with an emphatic No.

Suddenly, he said, he's just getting better pitching performances -- especially from the two veterans (Lannan and Olsen) whom he's willing to leave on the mound deep into games. (He'll still handle the rookies with kid gloves.)

"My philosophy goes according to how a guy is pitching," Acta said. "If a guy is not pitching good, he can have 35 years in the big leagues and he's gonna be out of there. If a guy is pitching well, he'll stay in the game. Obviously you have to manage according to what you have. This year we don't have the seventh-, eighth-inning guy (in the bullpen) like we've had in the past, but we haven't had that many veteran guys to deal with. The veterans we had had 100 pitches after 5-2/3."

That all makes sense. Acta has significantly better starters this year. He has a significantly weaker bullpen. But I also believe that the organization, especially with McCatty, wants to see how its starters respond to those late-inning, gotta-get-'em-out scenarios. This is hardly tantamount to abuse. (Note the relatively tame pitch counts from the above list; they're all pretty low.) But it's surely a sign that starters will be given every chance to finish what they've started. This, for the Nationals, represents a change.

By Chico Harlan  |  July 6, 2009; 8:25 AM ET
 
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Comments

Translation: the better his pitchers pitch, and the better the rest of his guys play, the better manager Manny is. That's the way it usually goes!

Posted by: EdDC | July 6, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I buy into Acta's rationale and reject the notion that McCatty/Rizzo are influencing deeper starting pitching performances (outside of improved instruction leading to deeper game presence). Generally speaking, the Nat's pitch counts and game situations have been dictating starting pitcher game tenure, and both variables have been out of sync, i.e., it's been rare when low pitch counts have combined with good run support (or even hitters looking good at the plate).

McCatty's influence has been around the philosophy of making something happen within the first three pitches, which means keeping the pitches down and challenging with fastballs. This leads to lower pitch counts, which guides Manny's decisions.

I think the data points to review are the pitch counts and the scores at the point of starting pitcher removal. Pretty sure that will prove out Chico's theorem.

Posted by: joemktg1 | July 6, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I thought yesterday was Manny's best managed game this season. I was stunned when he didn't take out Olsen in the 8th but it was a great non-move, and Olsen responded. Too bad about the McLouth HR in the 9th but that was the time to remove him. The best pitchers on our staff are in the rotation -- so why not use them longer? Its only going to make them better in the long run and give us a better chance to win in the short run.

I really like Scott Olsen, he's a real competitor. I hope he sticks around for a long time.

Posted by: raymitten | July 6, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Chico - What is the Nats philosphy now on getting starting pitchers to travel early on a road trip?

Craig Stammen pitches tonight in Colorado. Did he fly out early?

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | July 6, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

No, lets just call a spade a spade. The "gum chewer" can read the tea leaves, see's the writing on the wall, is feel'n da heat and knows he is on borrowed time.

Best days for Manny are when he doesn't manage.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 6, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

throwing 110 pitches in 5 innings from the stretch is a big difference from throwing 110 pitches in 9 innings from the windup.

the starters are improving. manny is a fine manager.

Posted by: longterm | July 6, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

What Manny's really saying is: "my bullpen sucks and damned if i let them get the better of my young, effective, win-deserving starters. Not to mention my team's morale. Until my starter is throwing worse than my bullpen, I'm keeping them in."

Posted by: NatsNut | July 6, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The counter-argument to all this would be that with McCatty as pitching coach the guys are being encouraged to throw more strikes in the zone, not hit spots on the corner.

I don't have time to go to the numbers and see whether there are more strikes being thrown by starters since he took over compared to the number of strikes thrown over St. Clair's tenure. It would be interesting to know, if anyone does have the time.

Of course, then we'd have to also look at pitcher performance under Robinson, when St. Clair was also coach to see if there was a difference between then and Acta-St. Clair.

See what you started Chico?

Posted by: Section506 | July 6, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of St. Claire, any news on what he's been up to since leaving the Nats? I'd wondered whether another team might pick him up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Chico, how do the two complete game losses pitched by Nationals starters in 2008 figure into your analysis? To jog your memory, they were Bergmann on 5/31/08 at Arizona (105 pitches) and Redding on 7/24/08 at San Francisco (97 pitches). Care to adjust your conclusions about Acta's pitcher management based on those games? No Rizzo/McCatty factors at play there, right?

Posted by: section417 | July 6, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Chico, how do the two complete game losses pitched by Nationals starters in 2008 figure into your analysis? To jog your memory, they were Bergmann on 5/31/08 at Arizona (105 pitches) and Redding on 7/24/08 at San Francisco (97 pitches). Care to adjust your conclusions about Acta's pitcher management based on those games? No Rizzo/McCatty factors at play there, right?

Posted by: section417 | July 6, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

------------------------

Well, they were away losses so the opponent didn't bat in the ninth, so the pitchers only went eight innings. Thus they don't beat out the 8.1 innings on the low side here.

Posted by: Hokienautic | July 6, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I recall many times St. Clair preaching that his pitchers must challenge the hitters. So it's not like Randy says nibble while the new guy says throw strikes. Randy was just the Nats' scapegoat of the month.

How many of us, when playing sports at a level higher than what we are used to, have compensated by trying to be better than we have ever been? This means painting the corners with your very best stuff.

Mike MacDougal did that the last couple times out, but got away with it. However, pitchers learn soon enough that it does not work consistently, that they have to play within themselves for better or worse. If they have what it takes, the pitchers will stay up in the majors by challenging the hitters in or around the strike zone, as the pitch count dictates.

Young pitchers come up to the bigs and are justifiably afraid of these hitters. Can you imagine facing Chipper or Pujols? So they nibble. Experience tells you that you can mostly get these guys out as you gain confidence over time and develop your command. If you don't do that, at least you gave it your best shot. I'm sure both Randy and McCatty both insist on this.

Posted by: EdDC | July 6, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Scott Olsen is monster hes just comes out now with that 90-92 mph fastball and throws strikes somthing no Nationals fan saw before great suff, now keep doing work and keep proving 99% of the nationals fans when you came back including me saying you couldnt do it.

Posted by: j-dog1 | July 6, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I was watching the radar gun display at yesterday's game pretty closely and though Olsen hit 91 and 92 once or twice he pitches most the game at 88-89.

That is still a few ticks above where he was before his stint on the DL and right in the low range of where he needs pitch to be effective. If he can maintain that velocity he could have some real success the rest of this year, but if it dips again (from fatigue or injury) he'll get knocked around pretty bad.

Still it's nice to have him back and back to form - he looks like a solid #3 starter right now...

Posted by: estuartj | July 6, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Anybody have a link to site where I can calculate team and player stats for any 20-25 games at a time? I wanted to compare our batting and pitching over certain time frames.

Posted by: gatsu | July 6, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Yes,

I think if you asked this question of Manny, when he was four beers deep, he would have said "What the hell choice do I have?".

Letting every win slip away demoralises everyone from the fans to the coaches to the players and infects the team. He has to try to win.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 6, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

EdDC, I'd just throw one more thing into your hopper. It could be the case that St. Claire and McCatty do in fact espouse the same philosophy, but that McCatty is the one who's able to say it so this particular batch of pitchers really hears it.

(I'm not saying that this *is* the case -- there are so many other possibilities, like random timing, more experience, different opponents -- I'm just saying that IF the success is attributable to McCatty, that doesn't have to be a knock on St. Claire.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I gotta say it's amazing how the tone of this message board has changed so quickly! I gotta say, I'm still in favor of a managerial change, though it doesn't have to be mid season (as I've written before). It's great if Acta has managed better the last 4 games or so, but it took him 3 full months to make these adjustments; a professional team needs a manager who makes adjustments more quickly than this. The last 4 games doesn't change the fact that he managed the worst team in MLB last year, and has this team as a long shot to finish any better this year. He might not have good talent around him, but I don't think we have the worst talent in the league either, so it's time Manny be held accountable for his share of the losing and lose his managerial position. Also, I don't trust Olsen's resurgence. If he goes 5 more starts like the last 2 then I'll revisit my opinion of him, but while he's hot I hope we can trade him for something of value before he flames out and returns to his April-May form (86 MPH fastball, contrasted by 83 MPH changeup = ugly). We'll see if he's a Rizzo guy or not in the coming weeks.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | July 6, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

gatsu, if you want it free, you have to make due with an amalgamation of ESPN.com, Baseball Reference.com, and - very rarely - MLB.com.

Posted by: Section506 | July 6, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

"Well, they were away losses so the opponent didn't bat in the ninth, so the pitchers only went eight innings. Thus they don't beat out the 8.1 innings on the low side here."

The IP totals are totally beside the point. Both of those 2008 games represent cases where Acta ignored pitch counts, the team being behind, etc, to allow his starter to pitch deep into the game - something that Chico is saying he's all of a sudden doing now, and demonstrating a change in Acta's philosophy of pitcher handling. These two cases from 2008 would indicate that perhaps Acta's philosophy really hasn't changed at all.

Posted by: section417 | July 6, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The "man-up" principle could lead to the "man-down" principle.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 6, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"It's great if Acta has managed better the last 4 games or so, but it took him 3 full months to make these adjustments"

Yeah, what a dope Manny is. Anyone could have seen that he should have been playing Morgan in center and leading him off all year.

And why's it taken him until July to have Olsen pitch well enough to make into the ninth?

Posted by: joebleux | July 6, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Would love to see Chico ask McCatty/Acta/Rizzo about the 100 pitch issue. Saw a good piece somewhere recently pointing out that there is no data to support the 100 pitch ceiling that is so strictly followed by all managers these days.

I think it's fine for rookies just to be extra safe but for vets, why not go by if he is still pitching effectively and forget about the count? And where did the 100 number come from? If you want to use pitch counts, do some research and tie it to injuries and have a number that can be supported not just the "thin-air" method.

Posted by: Avar | July 6, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"The IP totals are totally beside the point."

But he's examining the "deepest" performances - as in "deep into games", as in "most innings". IP *is* the point.

Posted by: mrm0to | July 6, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks section506, I think I can make do with that.

Posted by: gatsu | July 6, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I don't think this is all that complicated. If the starter can keep the game close through six why not leave them in for the 7th and 8th rather than let the bullpen muck things up? I'm sure the starters would rather accept the challenge and run the risk of taking their own loss later in the game. Clippard looks like he might be the bridge to the 9th if not overused. Of course somone still needs to close. Mac might be able to handle the workload if he cuts down the walks.

Posted by: SackMan | July 6, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I think that you will see Beimel emerge as the 8th inning guy after the break. I'm not sure that he his fully healty yet - obligue strains can linger and prevent one from going all out. But maybe after the break. If so, and Mac can continue to close than the bullpen looks a little better - Clippard/Villone in the 7th, Beimel 8th, and MacDougal the 9th. Irrespective of how well the starters are throiwng, they are going to need the relief come July and August in DC.

Posted by: lowcountry | July 6, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Scooter,

I agree with you, and thanks for the insight.

Randy was successful too, for a pretty long time, and hopefully McCatty will achieve the same or better level of success as Randy did.

Randy was just here when the current crop of arsonists (to borrow flynnie2's phrase) emerged as the most hopeless in the majors. I don't blame Randy at all, just like I don't blame Manny for the way he has dealt with his bargain basement "firemen." Many of those starters that he hooked did look gassed after six. Anyway, it is great to see McCatty's relative success, helping the Nats to climb up and over the .300 mark this season in wins.

Posted by: EdDC | July 6, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

""The IP totals are totally beside the point."

But he's examining the "deepest" performances - as in "deep into games", as in "most innings". IP *is* the point."

Leaving the starter in until the end of a game, not pulling him despite being behind or with any regard to pitch count, is pretty strong evidence that Acta was letting them pitch deep into a game. IP totals are completely irrelevant to that point.

Posted by: section417 | July 6, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm not convinced the 100 pitch limit really exists, in most circumstances. Consider:

If your pitcher is pitching well, he will throw between 15 and 20 pitches per inning. If he's doing great it will be less than that. If he's doing worse, it will be more. We'll put aside the "more" scenario for now, since if your pitcher is performing poorly, then you will pull him.

So, he's doing well, he's going to hit 100 pitches around the 6th inning. In the National League (the only league Acta has managed in, and he's the manager we're concerned with) the pitcher bats and, it is standard practice to lift him in the final four innings of the game if you don't have more than a 5 run lead.

Thus, most pitchers are being lifted for pinch hitters right around the time most pitchers are hitting 100 pitches. Correlation is not causality, though, so it's possible that it's not a pitch count, but a run count that does the lifting.

Posted by: Section506 | July 6, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

To be clear, 506, you're saying that you don't believe the *Nats* are using a hard 100-pitch limit? If so, then I tend to believe that you're right. Acta has pulled dudes with fewer than 90 pitches, rather than letting them go right up to 100, and he's also let several (see Harlan's list above) go a bit beyond 100. Doesn't seem to be based on a hard number, like you'll often see with a rehabbing pitcher, for instance.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I think the starters doing well, plus Manny keeping them in late innings, plus Nyjer Morgan, are three things that are already lifting the team up.

Olsen even said it. He's not so worried about giving up hits to the gaps knowing Nyjer's out there patrolling 3/4 of the outfield. And that confidence must trickle down to everyone.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 6, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. Some stuff I've been thinking of during the break (and while reading some of the comments recently):

* Nats have won 3 of the last 6 series. When was the last time that's happened?
* It's only been 2 games, but Olsen has looked pretty darned good in those two starts. Let's hope he is 100% healthy and can continue to pitch well.
* Lannan should be in the All-Star game. He has been lights out the past 12 starts (6-2, 3.05 ERA, 79.2 IP)
* For all those that want to get rid of Manny and cite the turnaround the Rockies have had since they fired Clint Hurdle (18-28, .391) and replaced him with Jim Tracy (24-11, .686) ... for every Jim Tracy, there's an AJ Hinch. He's the DBacks coach that replaced the fired Bob Melvin. How's that working out for them? Melvin was 12-17, .414 before he was fired. Hinch is 21-32, .396. Just because firing the manager worked one place, doesn't mean it will work another. Please keep that in mind.
* And for those that are clamoring for Rizzo to start bringing up the deserving AAA players, be careful what you wish for. While I, too, would like to see if JD Martin is serviceable on the mound, let's not rush into things. He will most likely get called up in September for a tryout (barring any injuries to our current crop of starters). As for Seth Bynum and Jorge Padilla ... well, maybe they've put it all together finally, maybe not. Just because they're doing well in AAA (and I don't think Bynum's doing "well". A .257/.311/.482 number in AAA in 253 AB's? Eh.) doesn't mean it will transition over to the big leagues. Remember, at this time last year, Langerhans, Kory Casto and Yurendell de Caster were hitting the ball pretty well in AAA and lord knows I don't want to see any of them on the bigs roster any time soon. Same goes for pitching. Mike O'Connor was pretty lights-out in AAA last year. As was Charlie Manning and Brian Sanches, but I'm glad I don't have to watch them on the mound anymore.

So, let's go to Denver and Houston and win a few more, go into the All-Star Break on a high note, and then come back and start the homestand crushing the Cubs, Mets and Padres!

Posted by: erocks33 | July 6, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Scooter and 506, there's also the rumored philosophy that Manny wanted guys to come out on a high note, which he seemed to do a lot, regardless of pitch count.

If that were the case, I could see someone like McCatty being a little tougher on them.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 6, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* if only they had a bullpen.

Posted by: AnonymousSources | July 6, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

The Nationals would have won more games at this point of the season if Acta had not pulled the plug on the starters regularly to hand the game over to Nitro Hanrahan and guys like Colome, whose ERAs are higher than most guys slugging percentages.

Posted by: leopard09 | July 6, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

NatsNut,

I've seen that too for the young guys (like Detwiler in his first couple starts), yanking the guys on a high note after 5 or 6 innings, rather than hurt their confidence. As some of the young guys mature and grow in confidence, they will get to stay longer, as long as they pitch to the hitters and cultivate low pitch counts throughout the game.

Olsen had about 65 pitches after 5 innings (I forget the exact number, but it was low). Manny hasn't had too much of that to work with this season.

Posted by: EdDC | July 6, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

hmm, how did we miss this news? The potential for Marlins "owning" the Nats may have changed as the Fish have come to terms with Twins castoff Luis Ayala:

http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/baseball/florida-marlins/story/1125629.html

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

As you may recall, Ayala and Gardenhire weren't exactly seeing eye to eye in Minnesota.

http://tinyurl.com/lqkw3w

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I see that Lastings Milledge somehow didn't get selected to the NL All-Star team. But I can't seem to find anything on the web that shows how many votes he got. Even MLB.com only shows the top ten vote-getting outfielders.

Anyone know? I smell a coverup.

Posted by: gilbertbp | July 6, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"Scooter and 506, there's also the rumored philosophy that Manny wanted guys to come out on a high note, which he seemed to do a lot, regardless of pitch count."

Good call, NatsNut. (And nice follow-up by EdDC.) I'm pretty sure I've actually seen at least one quote from the manager himself along those lines, meaning it's not just rumored. Not sure where to look for said quotes, though, because I have no idea where I saw them.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't read everything here, so I don't know if anyone has mentioned this.

How about the batting performance of the starting pitchers over the last 5 games?

Stammen: 2 AB, 1 H, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K
J Zimm: 3 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K
Detwiler: 2 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K
Lannan: 2 AB, 1 K
Olsen: 3 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K

Total: 12 AB, 1 R, 6 H, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K

Posted by: NoVaSnow | July 6, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I saw 506 asked about the difference between Mcatty and St. Claire so I did some research on baseball-reference.com. this whole summer off from school is leaving me needing a job. so here is the inning averages/start and % of strikes thrown both before 6/1 and after 6/2.
It shows under Mcatty pitchers are throwing a greater percentage of strikes and lasting longer overall. But its not overwhelmingly significant.

Before 6/1 After 6/2
Lann.
Innings: 5.2 7.2
%ofstrikes: 59% 63%

Zimm.
Innings: 5.2 5.2
%ofstrikes: 65% 69%

Olsen.
Innings: 5.0 7.2
%ofstrikes: 63% 67%

Stammen.
Innings: 5.1 5.2
%ofstrikes: 63% 64%

Detwil.
Innings: 5.0 5.2
%ofstrikes: 65% 61%

Martis.
Innnings: 5.2 5.2
%ofstrikes: 60% 57%

Posted by: wrw0601 | July 6, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh man aren't we getting into that last place mood ...

Bard, "a good name for him me thinks", comes up with Stengalese, a Berra-ism, a Durocher tid bit:
"We have to win more for those guys (the fireworks operators) to get some practice".


Posted by: periculum | July 6, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

NovaSnow, I think you may have hit on the real story here. Is Manny leaving them in games longer because he not only has nobody better in the bullpen, he doesn't have anybody on the bench hitting .500 with five RBI.
************
How about the batting performance of the starting pitchers over the last 5 games?

Stammen: 2 AB, 1 H, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K
J Zimm: 3 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K
Detwiler: 2 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K
Lannan: 2 AB, 1 K
Olsen: 3 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K

Total: 12 AB, 1 R, 6 H, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K

Posted by: NoVaSnow | July 6, 2009 12:42 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure Nyger Morgan isnt the reason we won a couple games....I would probably chalk it up to the law of averages. Every squirrel finds a nut.

Also, after following these boards...he'll go on a 2-15 lull, and then he'll be getting killed on here. Just like last week everyone was killing management for putting Olsen back in the rotation, and not letting the "kids" play (Olsen is 25 BTW). Now everyone thinks he's a number 3 starter. Baseball is a marathon game based on averages. Players are who they are and true colors come out over the course of a 162 game season (Just ask Austin Kearns, who couldnt hit a beach ball since he got here, but somehow actually got people to back him on this boards. Incredible). The marathon is what makes the sport great. Olsen will always be a 15-15 guy, my guess is Lannan will be too...someone who I wouldnt mind having in the middle to back of my rotation on a good team. Olsen, Detwiler and Zimmermann are the only guys on the current staff with the stuff to dominate a game. Kearns will be a .220 hitter on a good day. His batspeed is pathetic. Stammen will be a victim of the 10 start curse and exploited at some point, because his stuff isnt very good, and we'll never hear from him again. If you're 25 and just coming on the radar, you probably werent very good in the first place. Placeholder for someone better. Lannan will always be the guy without the best stuff, and without the strikeouts, but wins you games. Number 4 starter on a playoff team. My guess is they'll move Martis to the pen at some point, as he only really has 2 strong pitches. So your 2011 rotation as follows...Strasburg, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Olsen, Lannan...pending we dont deal for Johan Santana or something...

Posted by: TheycallmeThriiiiiiilledge | July 6, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Firing St. Clair sent a message to the pitchers. McCatty is its symbol.

Posted by: periculum | July 6, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Yep Olsen is definitely a kid that unless you have some serious arm troubles you send back to AAA for more seasoning. He decided he wanted to stay in the majors. Most all of the starting pitchers are kids in their 20's now. The youngest is Balester.
Even cast-off JD Martin is in that age group at the "ancient age" of 26.

The older guys pretty much make up most of the relief staff, like Villone. That appears to be changing slowly but surely as well.

Posted by: periculum | July 6, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

wrw0601,

OK, so 3 of the 6 pitchers you cite have improved under McCatty during a short timeframe. Does this mean that McCatty is a better pitching coach than Randy or does it mean that Zimmermann and Lannan continue to mature and that Olsen is now freer of injury? (Probably there are multiple factors, including a nice job so far by the new coach.)

Posted by: EdDC | July 6, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of stats in 14 games started 15 games and 85 innings pitched:

61 strike outs
9 base on balls.

WHIP: 0.92.
ERA: 2.14

Who is this guy? Why isn't he pitching for this lowly last place team that can't even get fireworks sync'ed up with wins?

Posted by: periculum | July 6, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Makes sense that Lannan and Olsen have a little more rope these days, they are a little more experienced. As long as they carefully monitor the baby arms and make sure they're developing properly into quality arms the team will benefit long term. It's not only the right way to go, it is the smart way to go. Afterall, the future isn't right now, but its not to far away either.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 6, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Throwing around the numbers...

Clint Hurdle (18-28, .391)
Jim Tracy (24-11, .686)
Bob Melvin. (12-17, .414 )
AJ Hinch (21-32, .396)

And,
Manny Acta (24-55, .304)

Posted by: comish4lif | July 6, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"Yeah, what a dope Manny is. Anyone could have seen that he should have been playing Morgan in center and leading him off all year.

And why's it taken him until July to have Olsen pitch well enough to make into the ninth?"

Posted by: joebleux | July 6, 2009 11:10 AM
- - - - -

Willie Harris was our best defensive outfielder from day 1 and he's been on our roster since last year. The defense in the outfield has been an issue all season, and a good manager would have recognized this and put Harris in CF instead of the Millege/Kearns/Dukes circus that resided there until the trade. This move would have freed up Dukes to play RF where he is a better-than-average fielder (http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4946&position=OF#fielding - UZR is the runs above average he's prevented. UZR/150 is a projection of the runs he would prevent over the course of 150 defensive games. Look at Dukes career UZR numbers in RF: 6.1 Runs better than average. In CF he's -26 runs). How many games could the Nats have won with a competent defensive outfield? How might Lastings Millege attitude changed if we forced him to compete for his spot on the roster instead of giving him an undeserved sense of entitlement before Spring Training even started and then yanking the floor out from under him after letting him flop like a fish for 6 weeks in CF? Maybe the answer to both questions is none, but I think these moves could have made a big difference a long time ago.

And yes, Joe, those are both decisions under Manny's control.

As for Olsen, I didn't mean to blame Manny for his poor performance early in the season. Manny cannot control the rotation and/or bullpen Bowden left him. I just meant to say I don't think we can assume Olsen is going to be a great pitcher from here out, but if another team thinks that we should try to get something valuable in exchange for Olsen.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | July 6, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I think it shows that Lannan, Zimmermann, and Olsen are actually major league ready. The rest, still seem to have control problems and as Dibble always says, showcases all their pitches during the first 4 innings. We do notice that under St. Claire the pitchers have a lower percentage of strikes/total pitches. Under McCatty they seem to throw more strikes. That could be due to the pitching philosophy, the coaching, preparation before the game, game maturity, or probably a combination of them all. But the pitching has performed better under McCatty than St. Claire.

just a thought.

You will also notice that Nats starting pitchers average only 3.9-4.4 run support per game.

Posted by: wrw0601 | July 6, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, wrw.

I would say "too soon to tell" since the only unexplained improvement we see is from Lannan.

Posted by: Section506 | July 6, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

A little off topic: I'm curious if someone with a digital ready TV, but without the cable, could still see Nats games anywhere? Or is it a strictly cable venture?

Posted by: NatsNut | July 6, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I would say that sitting in the stands in great weather seeing your team win two games in a row, both games well played and with good storylines, makes it pretty hard to stay negative the next day. Not impossible, but hard.

Posted by: markfromark | July 6, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

NatsNut

DC 50 sundays only

Posted by: kgwcoach | July 6, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

NN:

It looks like (from my quick internet poke and the ads on the floor at Dupont Circle Metro station entrances) that Channel 50 is broadcasting over-the-air games. But, only on Sundays.

Posted by: OldDude | July 6, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the occasional DC 50 broadcasts would be the only ones to not require cable. Except when the Nats are the Fox Saturday game of the week, of course. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!! Okay, I'm done now. heh.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be so quick to anoint SS the Ace just yet. The sum total of his professional experience consists of getting drafted (granted it's #1 overall) and hiring Scott Boras. Not a bad start, but he hasn't thrown one pitch for money yet. I think (and so does Tony Gwynn, apparently) he needs to start in the minors a while.

*************
So your 2011 rotation as follows: Strasburg, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Olsen, Lannan, [assuming the Nationals] don't deal for Johann Santana or something ...
Posted by: TheycallmeThriiiiiiilledge | July 6, 2009 12:53 PM |

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

cheeseburger, I think you'll appreciate this little response, since you seem to be down with UZR. According to fangraphs, Willie Harris has been a 0.7-win player so far this season, with 5.3 batting runs and -4.8 fielding runs. Morgan, on the other hand, is showing as a 2.4-win player: -2.6 batting runs and 17.7 (!) fielding runs. Perhaps more importantly, Harris's career UZR/150 in left field is 18.8, but only 3.2 in center. So, putting Harris in center would not have been the same as putting Morgan there. In fact, the difference between Morgan's 37.8 UZR/150 (!!!) and Harris's 3.2 is even greater than the difference between Willie and Dukes! (Sample-size caveats apply, of course.)

I'm not saying it would have been a bad move to put SuperWillie in center, or that it wouldn't have been good for Dukes, as you posit. I'm just saying that because the move seems to be working with one guy doesn't mean it would have worked with another, similar (but not the same!) guy.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"NatsNut

DC 50 sundays only"

If you're lucky and/or have a really good antenna that is. I can't pick up DC50 over the air at my house in Fairfax County.
Get channels 4, 5, 7, 9, 20, 26 etc fine. Good thing I have cable on one of my TVs.

Posted by: section417 | July 6, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

So, Scooter et al., how much does Morgan gain or lose, if anything, in his defensive stats by playing next to anyone not named Adam Dunn (seeing as how most of his career numbers are with Pittsburgh)?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Sec3, I think just about everybody here needs an occasional reminder to stop penciling in Strasburg, or Marrero, or Maxwell, or that 13-year-old I just saw totally pwning at wiffle ball the other day. If someone could just program a macro to throw that in every three days or so, I'd gladly trade a draft pick for it.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't know enough about how UZR is done to know this, but it seems you'd get a truer reading of someone's range, esp. in center, if they don't have someone with a good range next to them.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Sec3, we're out of order. Now I'm going to comment on your other comment that you commented while I was commenting on your other comment.

As far as I know, nobody has yet come up with a good, reliable way to do park factors or team factors for UZR. While this stat is widely considered to be one of the best (available) defensive metrics out there, it's still in its infancy. I mean, even something like Wins Above Replacement has been evolving for decades. UZR is much, much newer.

(As to Morgan playing for the Nats and the Rats, one could check those numbers at the end of the year, I reckon. fangraphs does break it out by team, even if they can't make an adjustment -- UZR+, I guess.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

We're out of order! You're out of order! This whole blog is out of order!!

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of the games on channel 50, I see that they are all on Sundays ... didn't they used to have some Friday games on 50?

Posted by: ihatewalks | July 6, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Friday games on DC50 (or was it My20?) are so last year. This year it's Sundays only.

Posted by: section417 | July 6, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

First of all, that kid playing Wiffle ball looked like a gamer. Real toolsy.

Secondly, if we were to create a macro, it would also have to include a note that you can't trade draft picks.

-----

Sec3, I think just about everybody here needs an occasional reminder to stop penciling in Strasburg, or Marrero, or Maxwell, or that 13-year-old I just saw totally pwning at wiffle ball the other day. If someone could just program a macro to throw that in every three days or so, I'd gladly trade a draft pick for it.

Posted by: JohninMpls | July 6, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I thought the Friday games were when it was on Channel 20...

But, since I can't get a watchable broadcast TV at my house in Bethesda (!) (well, digital works, but analog was always amazingly awful for eye-glazing-over technical reasons) I've had DirecTV for (essentially) ever so I might remember wrongly.

Posted by: OldDude | July 6, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

if we were to create a macro, it would also have to include a note that you can't trade draft picks.
++++++++++++
WHA???!!!???!!1!?

You can't ...

You can't tra ...

Huh?

Oh, boy. I obviously have some catch-up reading to do.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Ya'll are cracking me up.

And thanks for the answers to my TV question. I haven't owned a tv or cable since 1999 and I'm thinking of caving at least on the TV. Nats access would have been the hands-down deal maker. But Sundays only? Psh. Still on the fence, I guess.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 6, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

NN:

My suggestion, stay away from the TV. It is an evil and harsh mistress that will suck away all your time. And DEFINITELY don't get a TiVo because being able to skip all the ads will make you watch MORE not less TV.

Charlie and Dave on the radio are better than TV anyway.

Posted by: OldDude | July 6, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

and that's assuming you can even *find* which MASN channel it's on.

But that HD is really cool--you can see blades of grass...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

and that's assuming you can even *find* which MASN channel it's on.

But that HD is really cool--you can see blades of grass...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

and then there's the inevitable ghosting, but you get that here, too, apparently...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 6, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

good stuff. keep it coming. :D

Posted by: NatsNut | July 6, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I seem to recall that the TV 20 games were mostly on Fridays. That was it for me BC (before cable). The rest of the time it was Charlie and Dave (whom I love). With broadcast only, you'd also have the Fox Saturday game of the week, which is great if you love the Red Sox and Yankees (eh, not so much). I *do* like to watch This Week in Baseball on Fox, though.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh, TWiB... It isn't quite the same without Mel Allen, but it's still great.

Posted by: OldDude | July 6, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Until 1a mentioned it recently, I wasn't even aware that TWIB was still on. I used to so enjoy watching that and the Baseball Bunch on weekends.

How about that!

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 6, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Archives here, Scooter. It's generally on Fox at 12:30 on Saturdays and is repeated on MLB Network at the same time on Sundays.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/video/twib/index.jsp?content=08

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

And new post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 6, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I think penciling in any of the starters in our rotation in 2 years is a gamble at best. To say the 5 guys in our rotation now are more talented than SS at this point in time or will be in 2 years (pending his arm doesnt fall off or we dont sign him or he's pitching for the Washington Wild Things), I'd have to seriously question your baseball knowledge...I think putting him in the same projectable boat as Marrero (high school 1st rounder) and Maxwell (Swings it like Kearnsy) If you're in our scouting department...God help us all!

Posted by: TheycallmeThriiiiiiilledge | July 6, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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