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Rockies 5, Nats 4

Sometimes, because my mind words about as well as Cristian Guzman's glove, I think about nonsensical things. I dream about a 2009 Washington Nationals Commemorative Calendar. (Though it would probably have be on sale for the 2010 year.) Anyway. I think about 12 images that could you could use. I swear, tonight, in the 81st game of their season, the Nationals had enough snapshot plays to account four or five months.

One image: (And I cringe...) Willie Harris, writhing on the ground, after taking a grounder to the groin. This led to two unearned runs.

Another image: An incensed Manny Acta storming to the mound to remove Julian Tavarez, who walked back-to-back hitters with one out in the eighth. (Acta's quote later on: "I am very patient, but my patience runs out when there's a veteran run who's not throwing strikes.")

Another image: Joe Beimel, Tavarez's replacement, throwing a potential 1-6-3 double play well above the second base bag, where only Harris, backing up near the outfield grass, could helplessly catch it.

Another image: Austin Kearns bellyflopping on the basepaths after getting picked off.

And so on.

Tonight, the Nats lost 5-4, dropping to 24-57. They're on pace to lose 114. They'll have to go 39-42 or better in the second half to avoid 100 losses.

A few post-game notes from this one:

* A yin-yang day for the FoF. Ryan Zimmerman blasted a three-run homer in the third, giving Washington a temporary 4-1 lead, but he also grounded into two double plays.

* Rookie Jordan Zimmermann had his roughest start since May, going just four innings (94 pitches). He surely wasn't helped by the Harris fourth-inning error, which cost him two unearned runs, and forced him to use 13 additional pitches to finish the inning.

* Until the Tavarez sighting, Washington got stellar relief work from Jason Bergmann (1 IP, 0 R, eight pitches) and Sean Burnett (2 IP, 0 R, 33 pitches).

* Oh, and get this: Colorado's Alan Embree received the win tonight without throwing a pitch. He came in in the top of the eighth and immediately picked off Austin Kearns. Ross Detwiler, who has 817 career pitches, goes for his first career win in the Wednesday afternoon series finale.

By Chico Harlan  |  July 8, 2009; 1:11 AM ET
 
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Next: Today's Lineups

Comments

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Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 1:48 AM | Report abuse

So if Willie was wearing the Nutty Buddy, the final score is 4-2.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 1:52 AM | Report abuse

Tavarez, Beimel, and Villone == trade or DFA. There is no reason to keep them over someone from Syracuse at this point.

Posted by: periculum | July 8, 2009 1:52 AM | Report abuse

I mean, 4-3. "Willie Harris, writhing on the ground, after taking a grounder to the groin. This led to two unearned runs."

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 1:53 AM | Report abuse

You mean Willie Harris spent too much time in CF and not enough playing / getting infield practice.

Way too many walks, followed by too many errors ...

Posted by: periculum | July 8, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Yep, start trading Rizzo, get em out of here...

Posted by: bromisky | July 8, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse

That was a hard game to watch, on so many levels. Despite the high comedy provided once again by the Washington defenders the low spot was Tavarez. How can you walk two of three batters and still appear to have his attitude?

Once again the Nats batters just kill me with their horrid batting with runners on second and third. Zimmerman's GIDP was a supreme rally killer. Is it home run or nothing with these guys? When Nyger Morgan is on third and Dunn is at the plate the third baseman conceded about 20 feet of line to cheat to his left side. The play screamed for a soft bunt to third, automatic RBI and single. "Sorry, that won't pad my home run stats" thinks Adam. Ahh heck, what's another strikeout?

Years ago when baseball seemed different the job of the cleanup hitter was to get the runners home. Runner on third and less than two outs the manager would have your head if you did not try to at least get a flyball to the outfield. Failure to even make contact was cause for shame and embarrassment--on this team it is found to be perfectly acceptable and the norm.

Who would you rather see batting cleanup--hitters with a good chance of actually hitting the ball into RBI territory or a strikeout specialist? I would put Willingham or Bard in the fourth spot for now.

I can hear the counterarguments in my head: "Dunn at fourth makes Zimmerman a better hitter". Zimmerman actually seems to exist in his own world as a hitter--when his eye is good he drives the ball to the gaps when it is not he relentlessly beats the ball into the ground or pops up to the infield. He is hot or cold irrespective of Dunn. This team needs sustainable rallies. Putting a GIDP leader and a strikeout king back to back in the lineup kills big innings.

Posted by: driley | July 8, 2009 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, DRiley - very thoughtful post. Dunn and Zimmerman are first (Dunn-60) and 2d (Zimmerman-50) as of last night in rbi (caveat-going by memory here, but I'm sure of the placement); and in OPS (on base plus slugging percentage, with very respectable and unheard of (last year) .948 and .840 (Willingham's .902 is based on one third the at bats). "The soft bunt to third" that the play screamed for, and that I, too, would have loved to see, would have been disdained by Earl Weaver and a lot of other managers, who would have replied that the play screamed more for a single or better. The essential argument against the bunt is that the number of expected runs scored after a bunt attempt goes down in almost all situations when a bunt is used, and the expectation of scoring one run goes up only in a few situations. "The essential argument against the bunt is that the number of expected runs scored after a bunt attempt goes down in almost all situations when a bunt is used, and the expectation of scoring one run goes up only in a few situations." Bill James

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

"I am unable to prove that batting orders are highly relevant. I think that you can be ESSENTIALLY just as successful writing the names down at random." Bill James:

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie,

Dunn's and Zimmerman's RBI totals are probably more indicative of their position in the lineup--batting three and four gives you many more chances to get an RBI than batting in any other position. Dunn's first month showed a stark contrast to the recent version--he made a good deal more contact. His average has regressed back to the twofiftyish hitter he has always been. Zimmerman most likely got his RBIs in the very hot streak that he had. He has been very inconsistent lately.

James argument against the bunt would be good if the hitter is sacrificing an out. The opportunity afforded Dunn with two outs last night was a very high percentage chance for a successful bunt for a hit--the third baseman was not even in range to field it. Dunn's bunt would have done two things. First it would have allowed Nyger Morgan to score, second it would have prolonged the rally--putting the hottest hitter in the lineup (Willingham) up at the plate. Another effect might be for opposing defenses to play him a bit more honestly- not overloading the right side as they do in all situations.

By the way, I always enjoy your well-seasoned posts, Flynnie.

Posted by: driley | July 8, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm not opposed to the bunt scenario in theory, but it presumes that Dunn could successfully execute it. Heaven help all concerned if he tried to bunt and ended up popping it up to the pitcher (with Morgan getting doubled-off third no doubt).

Posted by: lowcountry | July 8, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Can Dunn bunt? If so, it was one of the rare times when playing for only 1 run made sense. With the third baseman playing so far off the bag, Willie would have a huge jump. But he probably can't bunt.

I agree more with Flynnie on situational hitting - when Zimm's hitting well, he uses the right side of the field. When he's off, it's hard grounders to the left side over and over. But I disagree to the extent that swinging from the heels with men on base and no outs, which he did last night, isn't the smart way to play. More of a make contact with 2 strikes kind of approach might reduce the odds of the 6-4-3.

Stray thought re: Boz - Guzman's natural place in the order is NOT second. You want somebody who can take some pitches in that slot.

Geezer
Geezer

Posted by: utec | July 8, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Has Dunn ever bunted before anywhere, I don't know. Is he proficient at bunting, I don't know. Does he practice the bunt, I doubt it. This game wasn't lost on the non bunting Dunn. It was lost on the non fielding defense. That is where the problem lies. Poor Willie Harris, Guzies lack of attention, both in fielding and failing to cover 2nd quicker and perhaps the errant throw of Beimel. Defense, defense, defense, where is it? It was there in the 1-0 loss. Erratic fielding has cost this team a ton of games and must be fixed.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 8, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

driley, I also just wanted to see Morgan going further down the line on that play, maybe get into the pitcher's head at least -- if not outright steal home. The downside, of course, is that a foul off Adam Dunn's bat could've killed him. But hey, if you're not willing to die to score a run, I'm not sure I want you on my team anyway.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 8, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I have also quit voting Guzie to the allstar game as I don't want Washington to be embarrassed any more on a national level.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 8, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Guzman was the reason we lost this game. He is lazy (as Dibble said.) If he had gotten to the second base bag timely as he was supposed to, Beimel throws it to the right guy and the winning run never scores. If Beimel had thrown to the bag, the throw would have been in centerfield and two runs would have scored on that play. Guzman's error was lazy -- he didn't feel like bending down enough to get the glove on the ground. I was voting for him in the second chance all star vote, but if he doesn't feel like bothering, why should I?

Guzman has decent stats but hasn't hit in the clutch and his errors contribute to more runs for the opponent than his batting production contributes to Nats scoring. He's the first guy that should be moved.

Trading Beimel would be nuts.

Posted by: raymitten | July 8, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

The team was playing against itself last night. The Rockies didn't even need to be on the field to win this one.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 8, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

What made perfect fielding so essential, what magnified the errors, was the fact that the bases were full of walked batters. What makes this season so disastrous was the bullpen's inability to hold a lead for the first 45 days or so when the team was 3rd in MLB in runs produced but lost 25 games. I'm looking forward to at least 500 ball after the All-Star break, which means more wins than we've seen so far this year.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

From Twitter (username hidden to protect the wickedly funny):

"Don't think we'll see Willie Harris getting short-hopped in the nuts in a Defining Moment ad. I'm sure Willie feels it was a Defining Moment."

Posted by: diogenes_quixote | July 8, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

how soon can tavarez be strapped to a slow moving pack mule and designated for parts unknown? it's like his body has been taken over by the ghost of gascanrahan. maybe he's used up all of the strikes in his arm.

Posted by: surly_w | July 8, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

"Clutch Hitting" is different than "situational hitting" and you should read Bill James' article, "Underestimating the Fog" - http://www.sabr.org/cmsfiles/underestimating.pdf - to get Bill's latest insight on clutch hitting, pitcher's wins, catchers' ERA and so on.

Posted by: comish4lif | July 8, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Before last night's game, Zimm had 14 GIDP and Pujols had 11. I find this stunning, and another proof that hitting is random. The ball comes in so fast, the reaction time so small, that good hitters are going to make more contact and have more good and bad things happen.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Chico sums it up, Bozwell blows it up and the Nats just keep it up!

31 Jul and 7 Oct can't come soone enough; Taverez, Biemal, Vilone, Kearns, Belliard, Guzman, Johnson, bye-bye!

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

Since when is "words" a verb? Good God. Is this what Journalistic writing has come to be?

Posted by: logan9 | July 8, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

after last night, shouldn't harris be known as "wincing willie?" and with ayala and gas can gone, tavarez is now the nats' arsonist in residence.

Posted by: surly_w | July 8, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, commish! I've read it many times. The gist is that just because we can't prove situational hitting mathematically doesn't mean that situational hitting does not exist - like the army that cannot be seen in a fog. I don't buy it. The fact that the best hitters also lead the league in GIDP is another proof that hitting is random. And, surely, those who insist that situational hitting is real are not helped by fact that you can't track one hitter who performs consistently well from year to year in the clutch or in a ripe situation or whatever you want to call it. Bill James never answers his own objection - how does a player whose reflexes make him a .260 hitter suddenly gain quicker reflexes with men on 2d and 3rd an nobody out, or the bases loaded? I understand that we remember the last two nights' impotence with the bases loaded, what, four times? We also remember Reggie Jackson's three home runs in the Series or Gene Tenace, a lifetime .241 hitter, coming off the bench to win the 1972 Series. They just got hot at the right time. Take these two fazmous examples and follow their careers - they did not do well situationally from year to year.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

"If he had gotten to the second base bag timely as he was supposed to, Beimel throws it to the right guy and the winning run never scores. If Beimel had thrown to the bag, the throw would have been in centerfield"

That's not true. Guz was almost at the bag; Beimel just didn't throw it to him -- on a sharp comebacker to the mound, it's going to take a second for your SS to get to the bag, and Beimel has to know that.

However, I really blame Willie for that play. He also caught a ball from Bard when he was backing up second on a steal. I like Super Willie as much as anyone, but he needs to turn down his personal magnetism a little so that his teammates aren't irresistibly drawn into throwing the ball to him at inopportune moments.

Posted by: joebleux | July 8, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

That was an ugly game last night, Dunn looked lost at the plate against a guy who had a home ERA over 7! Our fielding looked reminscent of a Little League game. I think Tavarez gets DFA'd today, he has too for Manny and the Riz to maintain any credibility...someone in AAA is getting a plane ticket

Posted by: markfd | July 8, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...last night as I dozed off after the game.....or tried to-this one really stuck in my craw-I developed a good, nasty rant against the Lerners(are we doomed to a bottom line bunch for the next three decades?) Kasten, Manny and the players(does ANYONE on this team have any,,,,ahem,,,"big ones"-enough to say, in the clubhouse ENOUGH) and also the reporters who don't tear into this bunch at the post-game news conference.As great as the writing is, can someone please convey to the people "running" this team the ire out here?. And as a 50+ y.o. DC native, I've loved Boz for years. But Jeeked Cripers...stop being a wimbly-wambly ...well, I think, if you haven't lost yer stones, seems you try awful hard to protect 'em from Stan. Hey, the (heavy)Thom at the "other rag has been tearing into the Nots since early last year.
Well, I forgot most of the evil part of my rant...maybe I was just dreaming.
But I dreamt of getting an MLB team back here for years, too...and got this cartoonish imposter.
And the nightmare is that the only people who DO care are hear on NJ(and elsewhere not on the team).
Gotta be careful, I'm getting steamed again and I gotta go deal with lawyers and the IRS.
Just like the Nats,,,I get the sense we've been Scrooged. And a glorius game, instead of taking deep root in the frickin' CAPITAL is gonna languish like some second-hand dollar store.The "Plan" being make as much and spend as little as possible, fans be danged.Hope I'm wrong.And I wish I could say "that's it, I quit, I don't care about them anymore."
Good luck with that, too!
Thanks mainly to the group here for providing a modicum of something consistently done "write".
Go Nats!

Posted by: zendo | July 8, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie, you keep missing the point on situational hitting. You can't measure situational hitting statistically, because it often involves making an out. For example, a batter intentionally hitting behind the runner(s) is a perfect example of situational hitting, even if the batter makes an out. Don't confuse situational hitting and clutch hitting, they are not the same thing.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 8, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

And to those of you who think Guzman lazy, he's played almost every day for 81 games, he's playing a mile high (have any of you ever tried to run there?) and he's got rookie pitchers trying to throw curves that normally work but don't break in thin air, and vets who can't find the strike zone. Beimel did not say that was Guzman's error, and from what I saw, Beimel's right to say it's on him. His throw was to the back-up man, a spring training error. It would have sailed over Guzman's head. The whole team looked tired. Let's win one today!! What, starting at 3pm?

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

The reason why the Nationals lost this game was their inability to put the Rockies away, time and again they had the oppourtunities to take the lead after blowing a three run lead. They had the bases loaded numerous times and came away with nothing,Zimmerman was given a chance to be the hero and he came up short as did Adam"whiff"Dunn who like i said in an earlier post a week ago strikes out way too much for my taste.They should have won these first two games but the clutch hitting sucks and for all the credit given to Rick Eckstein their situational hitting is abysmal.

Posted by: dargregmag | July 8, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I would'nt mind trading Dunn. (too bad it's not happening) Like dargregmag said, he strikes out WAY too much. Whenever the Nats have something going and he comes up, he strikes out. It's like I can predict it now... and he sucks in the field as well.

Posted by: rachel216 | July 8, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

the future mrs. harris must have seen her honeymoon flash before her eyes last night.

Posted by: surly_w | July 8, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Someday, when the Nats are respectable, I will be able to tell my children and grandchildren about this game. Not sure they'll believe me, though. ("There goes Gramps, exaggerating again...")

Posted by: mab9 | July 8, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

"Another image: Austin Kearns bellyflopping on the basepaths after getting picked off."

should be, Austin Kearns bellyflopping on the basepaths after getting picked off, and Todd Helton dropping the ball possibly allowing Austin to escape the rundown but Austin simply falling face down.

Posted by: malcolmyoung1 | July 8, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

mab,

Respectable? Hell, I got that response when I tried to explain last night to my red-headed Cubs-fan fiance this morning!

Posted by: Section506 | July 8, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

In fairness to AK, it has been a long time since he has been on the basepaths :)

Posted by: lowcountry | July 8, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Dunn didn't need to bunt, he only needed any kind of ground ball at all not directly back to the pitcher, or a few feet in front of the plate. With the 3rd baseman 40 feet from the bag, they were all but begging Morgan to steal home. Almost any contact gets the run in. Morgan can be fully halfway down the line there and still get back to third if Dunn misses the pitch.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Did you see on MLB Trade Rumors that the d'Backs are looking to trade FLOP?


Hmmm, I wonder if they will have better luck with that than Bowden did?

For sale: moody, streaky, underperforming utilty player with hot wife. Real cheap (the player, not the wife).

Posted by: natbiscuits | July 8, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

So Kearns' new nickname is Sniper...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

natsbiscuits, do you think they'd take Kearns and Tavares for him?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

and if Willie is wearing a cup, one run, maybe both, still score. He wouldn't have felt as bad about it, but the ball still would have been on the ground, not in his glove.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Situational hitting and clutch hitting are different things.

When baseball people talk about situational hitting - we mean using the right side of the field and hitting behind the runner to move him over - we mean hitting a flyball - on purpose to get a run in from third. We mean shortening up the swing a little bit once you get to 2 strikes and taking a single the other way.

This team seems to swing for the fences - every player, every at bat, every inning - regardless of the situation.

And to me, that's on the manager to make his players do the little things. Fat chance Manny has of succeeding not that the team is 24-57 or whatever it is.

Posted by: comish4lif | July 8, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

(does ANYONE on this team have any,,,,ahem,,,"big ones"-enough to say, in the clubhouse ENOUGH)
Posted by: zendo | July 8, 2009 9:19 AM |

++++++++++++++++

I think Willie does now.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 8, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

That response was a long time comin'
__________________________
(does ANYONE on this team have any,,,,ahem,,,"big ones"-enough to say, in the clubhouse ENOUGH)
Posted by: zendo | July 8, 2009 9:19 AM |

++++++++++++++++

I think Willie does now.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 8, 2009 10:55 AM |

Posted by: lowcountry | July 8, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang......YOW, excellent NatsNut! Does Willie perhaps now have a chance for a new moniker: NatsNutS? Or no longer wee? Ahh, I love this place! Praise _________ for NJ posters! Go Nays.....

Posted by: zendo | July 8, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I can understand not playing around once Dunn had 2 strikes, but the situation screamed for stealing home. Nobody keeping Morgan close at 3rd and pitcher in wind-up (though righty). In the least, Morgan could have gotten in his head more, make him throw from the stretch, etc. Dunn looked clueless.

The most aggravating part last night, IMO, was Dibble and Carpenter begging for the Harris error to be labeled a hit. Are you kidding me?! Sure, it sucks that his groin was smashed, but that doesn't excuse commentators from making idiotic statements!!!

A close second was the NJ force-out at third. Dibble going on and on about how Nick looked twice at Tulo. Three minutes of Dibble-rant and Carpenter points out (correctly), that NJ didn't take the direct path to the base. Carp, sack up earlier, please.

Despite all this, Dibble managed to out do himself again, by making the astute comment "Zimmermann has no control of his fastball tonight" and following it up a couple minutes later with "Zimmermann should just forget about the slider and throw fastballs for the rest of the game."

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Zimm's been hitting into so many double plays this season, you gotta wonder whether it's opposing pitching staff figuring out his main weakness, but Zimm and Eckstein not yet figuring out how to overcome that weakness. Change his swing, perhaps? I dunno.

Posted by: Juan-John | July 8, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"Situational hitting and clutch hitting are different things.

When baseball people talk about situational hitting - we mean using the right side of the field and hitting behind the runner to move him over - we mean hitting a flyball - on purpose to get a run in from third. We mean shortening up the swing a little bit once you get to 2 strikes and taking a single the other way."

Very good post. In the 7th, Zimm displayed poor situational hitting, by grounding to short with a runner on 2nd, 0 outs, and the game tied. How did they score that a hit, btw?

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"Very good post. In the 7th, Zimm displayed poor situational hitting, by grounding to short with a runner on 2nd, 0 outs, and the game tied."

And to complete our study of situational vs. clutch hitting, I'll point out that a pitcher does his best to make sure Zimm couldn't hit a ground ball to the right side with a runner on second. As a batter, Zimmerman ought to be aware this is happening, and try extra hard to hit the ball the opposite way, but he never seems to adjust. If this happened once, we might tip our hat to the pitcher. Since it's a regular thing, we need to look to Zimm.

Posted by: Section506 | July 8, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

A couple inconsequential little squibs.

Morgan stealing home: I thought the pitcher already was working from the stretch.

On Willie Harris: I think it's safe to say we all pray for his testicles and his (future) family.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 8, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The pitcher was working from the wind-up.

Clarification: So was Willie wearing a cup? A grounder can still get you bad even if you are wearing one, but it's just plain stupid to go out there without one. Reminds me of that batter in those old blooper reels that squared and was hit by a pitch right in the groin. And wasn't there a pitcher hit by a come-backer who wasn't wearing a cup?

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Chico:
I was stunned that your dead-tree story didn't even MENTION the several times the Nats failed to get hits with runners in scoring position. If they had connected on one of their three or four beautiful chances, the errors and walks wouldn't have mattered. I'm not saying the errors and walks aren't problems. But a complete description of the game should've talked about the failures with the bats.
Even a Nats Nut like me is having a harder and harder time watching these buffoons.

Posted by: jdsp2000 | July 8, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Looked like he was pitching from the stretch to me. With the 3rd baseman playing shortstop and a fast guy at third, I can't imagine he'd wind up without Morgan going. And Dibble and Carpenter discussed it, not that that's in any way dispositive.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I just checked the videotape, and we're both right. The pitcher used a full windup for the first two pitches, then went to the stretch. (It was between the first and second pitches that the third baseperson visited the mound; maybe they were trying to put on a slick play or something.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 8, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we can get Willie Harris a "Nadinals" jersey. I can imagine the anapest cheers now ...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the response, CIL. I understand that situational hitting is all about quality outs: sacrifice flies (tracked since 1954); sacrifice hits (also tracked). And since these stats are tracked, there ought to be consistent leaders from year to year. But there aren't. And, as a poster on USS Mariner said: "Isn’t “situational hitting” kind of the loser’s bracket of baseball skillsets? I mean, if a player hits for a high OBP and SLG, he’s by definition going to do well in the “situations” in question. So the real interesting distinctions between players occur with reference to poor hitters. It’s guys who get out in ways that still help the team in “situations” that might be interesting in this context. Since you don’t want those guys on your team anyway…who cares if they’re good with a guy on third and no outs?"

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks. Maybe the 3rd baseman came in to tell him that. "I don't know why that guy hasn't stolen home yet, but I wouldn't count on it not happening if you stay in a windup. And candlesticks are always good."
*****
I just checked the videotape, and we're both right. The pitcher used a full windup for the first two pitches, then went to the stretch. (It was between the first and second pitches that the third baseperson visited the mound; maybe they were trying to put on a slick play or something.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 8, 2009 12:22 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

>Bill James never answers his own objection - how does a player whose reflexes make him a .260 hitter suddenly gain quicker reflexes with men on 2d and 3rd an nobody out, or the bases loaded?

You shorten your stroke, keep your hands back, and wait on the ball longer. When there are guys on second and third and nobody out, even if a pitcher has been inconsistent, you're more likely to see strikes, because the last thing the pitcher should do is walk somebody in that situation.

Posted by: Brue | July 8, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I'll second the nit on the gamer, Chico. It seemed to miss encapsulating the game I watched, in which the Rockies just begged the Nationals to defeat them and the Nationals refused, none too gentlemanly.

Oh, and someone got hit in the balls. Really, it outdid Major League for parodying bad baseball.

Posted by: Section506 | July 8, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

and would Embree be the Bizarro Stanton, winning without throwing a pitch?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Another interesting question is why Handley Ramirez, who leads MLB in RBI's (60) has hit into so few doublew plays(3)? The Marlins have, as a team, only GIDP 48 times. If it's truly random, then there should be a rash of GIDP after the All-Star break, with Handley leading the way. If not, as 506 says, Eckstein and Zimm need to watch a lot of Handley film.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris didn't get hit in the nuts, his nuts hit the ball

Posted by: jfromPG | July 8, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

if I understand correctly, James's objection is based on the assumption that professional hitters do their best in every at-bat, but that seems counter-intuitive to me. Why, for instance, would players describe getting more revved up when the crowd is large and loud, if they thought their performance was unaffected by that? Hitting requires concentration, and most people, even the ones who are good enough for MLB, can't concentrate on every at-bat, every game, equally effectively, try as they might (or not, in some cases).

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Good one Sec3. I forgot about THAT game.

Posted by: alm1000 | July 8, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Hope everyone takes the time to read Tracee's piece on Lannan today:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/08/AR2009070801684.html

Posted by: JohninMpls | July 8, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Every superhero has one weakness. Willie Harris has two.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"I just checked the videotape, and we're both right. The pitcher used a full windup for the first two pitches, then went to the stretch."

Thanks. Obviously, I distinctly remembered one thing and you the other, and I'm glad we both remembered correctly.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Sec3mysofa - GREAT handle, by the way! - which makes Josh Bard's current hot streak really fascinating - does the pain keep him focused, or is he hitting in spite of it?

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Sec 3, see Brue's explanation, above. He does a good job explaining the difference. What would be surprising is to see power increase, you'd expect a slight dip in SLG due to the smaller swing. I'm not sure what the aggregate numbers would show for players who are better with RISP.

It's also probably a fallacy to make any assumptions about the mental state of a player. There are some that "see" more clearly when it's a big moment and some that "see" less clearly. That has to do with how brains process stress situations, and we don't have a statistical predictor yet, any better than past performance. But then, we don't really for anything.

Posted by: Section506 | July 8, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

How do the proposed metrics for "clutchness" or for "situational hitting"--either one--address relative success at the plate? For instance, getting a hit is better than a sacrifice, but sacs are still good. GWRBI (RIP) are more "clutch" than solo homers in the early innings of a blowout.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Flynnie, you're close, but you're still not getting it. Let me try one last time.

Situational hitting is not about sacrifice bunts. A good situational at-bat might result in a sacrifice fly, but it doesn't need to. In arguing that situational hitting does not exist, you keep wanting to argue that situational hitting is statistically tracked as your premise, but really, it's not and cannot be, and that's the point. You have to watch the game, and see and understand what the hitter is doing, or trying to do.

Have you ever heard a batter praised for doing something well but that "won't show up in the box score the next day"? That is usually praising someone for good situational hitting. Intentionally hitting behind the runner when the situation calls for it is not tracked by conventional stats, so you're not going to have leaders in that category.

Good situational hitting involves changing your approach physically at the plate. Have you ever heard the expression "grip it and rip it"? That is not situational hitting, but it is what the Nats seem to do too much of. On the other hand, shortening your stroke, looking for a pitch to hit to right, wait on the ball, that is what a good situational hitter will do when the circumstances call for it.

A good situational hitter is hardly the "loser's bracket" of skill sets. Some of the best hitters could also be good situational hitters--in certain at-bats, they might be giving up an out as the result of their approach, but they also might end up getting a hit. But what they have increased the probability of--regardless whether they get a hit or not--is advancing the runner(s). Other great hitters, on the other hand, might not be good situational hitters. It's all about whether they change their approach to increase the chance of advancing the runner(s).

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 8, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Tracee Hamilton turns out to have all the depth of Debbie Taylor with none of the hotness. Who woulda thought?

Posted by: section417 | July 8, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

to follow on CiL's post, situational hitting might simply be "not trying to hit the ball 500 feet" when a single will score the run, but it might also be *trying* to hit a home run in some cases.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Don't listen to them, Tracee. You're hotter than Debbie.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

You're killing me, sofa!
_________________________
Thanks. Maybe the 3rd baseman came in to tell him that. "I don't know why that guy hasn't stolen home yet, but I wouldn't count on it not happening if you stay in a windup. And candlesticks are always good."
*****
I just checked the videotape, and we're both right. The pitcher used a full windup for the first two pitches, then went to the stretch. (It was between the first and second pitches that the third baseperson visited the mound; maybe they were trying to put on a slick play or something.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 8, 2009 12:22 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa |

Posted by: lowcountry | July 8, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

417, Debbi Taylor knows so much more about baseball than you - she's married to a scout; she's been broadcasting baseball her whole professional life, including for the Red Sox and here; she asks intelligent questions of Manny after every game. If MASN let her do play-by-play or color, she'd know your socks off. I resent your sexism - go listen to Howard Stern. And besides, you're wrong. Tracee is very attractive.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

CiL, like Johnson taking his time to give Nyjer time to steal? Like Lannan working a 10+ pitch at-bat where he eventually grounded out but advanced a runner and got the opposing pitcher's pitch count high enough to knock him out of the game?

Posted by: NatsNut | July 8, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

you can't disprove a hypothesis without defining the terms, and it seems that's part of what we're up against--lacking a rigorous definition of "situation" and success therein. Sort of like defensive metrics--everybody knows there's good and bad defenders, but defining it is, at best, a young science.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Look, I think all of this talk about lineups and situational hitting is great but there are far more important questions to be answered here:

--Why wasn't Willie Harris wearing a cup? I thought all ballplayers wore them.

--Is this common? I'm betting it'll be a little less common today than it was yesterday.

--Um, how's he feeling today?

--Has anybody ever on the DL for that one?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 8, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

CIL - I used to choke up when the count got bad for me. I do understand what you're saying. It's just that it should be reflected mathematically in sacrifice flies and hits if it exists. But, as the Scots atheist said, show me the beast! Who is a good situational hitter? Who do you have in mind? I understand that shortening the stroke should work, and heard that ARod had "shortened his swing" when he went on that home run tear a few years back that we now know was caused by a shorter trip to the pharmacy. I hear it spoken of. I understand that players and hitting coaches want to feel in control, and fans like you believe that it exists and can be taught. We'll just agree to disagree. If it existed, it would show up somewhere - sacrifice outs or flies; rbi's; RISP - somewhere. And the patterns are random from year to year.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 8, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

it's not like there are at-bats that have no "situation." Situation-hitting success/failure, at least theoretically, ought to be measurable somehow in hitting stats. But maybe not--if it exists, and some players are good situational hitters and some aren't, they are doing it all the time (or not), regardless of how good a hitter they are.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"All Things Considered" just did a piece the other day on "clutchness" (not to be confused with situational hitting). The study focused on the NBA and found that LeBrn and Kobe did indeed score more points in "clutch" situations. But they also shot more and their overall FG percentage was unchanged by the context. They were clutch becuase their teamates considered them clutch - but that was it.

The researcher also went onto to discuss how memory factors into our perceptions. He referenced Michael Jordan's famous game winning shot to win the championship in game six of the Finals but noted that few people remember that he missed a similar shot (which would have had the same effect) in game 5.

Interesting stuff. I'm not sure it can be applied to baseball except for possibly analyzing closers. Perhaps it is only because of his repeated success based upon his repeated oppportunities that we consider Trevor Hoffman a more clutch performer than say, Joel Hanrahan (oops) or Julian Taverez - never mind, you fill in the blank!

I don't know how to analyze hitting or fielding - but something has to account for Reggie Jackson's three HRs, Kirk Gibson ph HR, and Derek Jeter's defensive play of the century against the A's.

Posted by: lowcountry | July 8, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey, flynnie, I said nothing bad about Debbie Taylor. And attractiveness? That's obviously in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

Posted by: section417 | July 8, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

417 - that was mean-spirited and uncalled for. Readers and posters alike of the NJ owe Tracee a debt of gratitude for her contributions to this space and I think this audience especially should be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt long enough for her to establish her written voice. It can't be the easiest thing to transition from blog contributor to columnist so how about cutting our recently departed a little slack.

As for the attack on her physical appearance, you must be an Adonis to be taking such public shots at someone else's looks, and if you are, I personally hope you suffer a Joker-esque run-in with a vat of nuclear waste.

Go pound sand jerk.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | July 8, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

1. They're not comfortable; you were mistaken.

2. It is common. Since men have had nuts longer than there's been baseball, I suspect it's less common only by one, and only if Willie changes his policy.

3. How do you think?

4. DL'd? Oh, yeah. People have been hospitalized. I'm too lazy to look it up, though.

**************
Look, I think all of this talk about lineups and situational hitting is great but there are far more important questions to be answered here:

--Why wasn't Willie Harris wearing a cup? I thought all ballplayers wore them.

--Is this common? I'm betting it'll be a little less common today than it was yesterday.

--Um, how's he feeling today?

--Has anybody ever on the DL for that one?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 8, 2009 1:16 PM |

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

With a runner on 2nd and 0 outs in a tight game, good situational hitting would be moving the runner over to 3rd by hitting a ground ball "behind" the runner, i.e. hitting a ground ball to the right side of the infield (to 1st or 2nd) or deep enough to RF or even CF, so long as Hawpe is not the RF (if a ball were to hit Hawpe in the groin, it would most certainly bouce off of Dibble first). Such a grounder is considered selfless but not a sacrifice, and therefore appears in the box score as a typical groundball out, lowering the batter's avg. However, now with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, the next batter is in a good position to drive him in via hit or sacrifice.

Striking out (Dunn), grounding out with the infield in, GIDPing to end the inning, etc with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs is NOT good situational hitting. However, a sac fly (which would be counted as a sacrifice) is good situational hitting, as is a grounder with the infield playing back, right-side preferred (which would not count as a sacrifice).

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"All Things Considered" just did a piece the other day on "clutchness" (not to be confused with situational hitting). The study focused on the NBA and found that LeBrn and Kobe did indeed score more points in "clutch" situations.
-----------------------------------

Mark Reynolds (ARI) has some inordinate number of HRs after the 7th inning.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

4. DL'd? Oh, yeah. People have been hospitalized. I'm too lazy to look it up, though.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 8, 2009 1:21 PM
+++++++++++++++

I'd look it up but I'm worried what I'd get googling those terms. Could get me fired.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 8, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I cringe at Zimm's GIDP total too but I also think it's hard to pinpoint a cause. As far as "situational hitting" goes his HR at bat was a masterpiece -- line drive foul to right, line drive foul to left, then line drive over the fence to right center. Seems he can go with the pitch location. Didn't see the first GIDP but the second one was a hot smash to third, could easily have been a double into the corner and 2 RBI. He's probably more of a groundball and line drive hitter so tha's going to get some GIDP's.

Posted by: SackMan | July 8, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Sackman,
Then you missed his "infield single" to SS with 0 outs and runner on 2nd. It was a feeble grounder that Tulo double-clutched.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

To his credit, Dibble was even calling for a grounder to the right side.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 8, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I am done with Boo-zeman. Two games in a row he kicked a ball because it seems too far for him to reach it with his glove. He consistently does not run out ground balls when he is hitting. And I think the laziest play was being late to cover second for the Biemel throw. As Biemel stated, “I knew I had Guzie on the throw, I saw somebody standing there. I didn’t realize it wasn’t Guzie, and I just messed up and threw it to the wrong guy. I did everything right until that point – anticipated the ground ball, got it and just blew it. There’s no other way to describe it." Other posters said and I agree, had he thrown it to the bag, it would have been Nyjer Morgan's ball. Its terrible. I like Manny, don't love him, but don't have that vile hatred that permeates this board. He was given a bad team and now, it appears he is managing with some desperation and desire. Dibble said it right that the only one trying last night was Manny Acta. But he needs to realize that Boo-zeman needs to sit on the pine for a month. Its clear Boo-zeman doesn't feel like playing right now.

Posted by: you-dont | July 8, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Separate rant: Last night's game was emblematic of the entire season -- complete lack of focus on the fundamental part of the game -- catch the ball, throw the ball, don't get picked off, don't walk the #8 hitter and then throw the pitcher a soft curve he can get around on, etc., etc. Don't know how you "manage" that pert of the game. Personally, I believe it comes from nervous over-thinking rather than not thinking. After all that has gone bad I suspect there are a lot of tight sphincters out there. Of course having so many non-performers on the club doesn't create a lot of confidence. Don't know how you break the failure loop, maybe it's time for a new voice to settle people down. More DFA's would probably help -- Kearns and Tavares simply cannot help and need to go -- time to throuw Jonah overboard.

Posted by: SackMan | July 8, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The problem (largest, that is) is Acta, has been Acta, and will continue to be Acta. When a team doesn't know who's covering on any play; doesn't know how to line up a relay; can't figure out how to avoid hitting into double-plays (duh, maybe start the runner(s) now and again?); has a crippled catcher batting ahead of a speedster in the lineup; and so on, and so on and scooby-dooby-dooby. It's the manager, stupid. Oh yeah, and while I hope he proves to be the next Devon White, Nyjer (nee Nook, Brandon, Brad, Preston, Marlon (2, actually), Lastings)Morgan is now hitting .250 with a .318 on-base percentage as a Nat. Don't get me wrong, I'd have traded Lastings and Joel for the rights to Dave Kingman and a spike cleaner but to annoint this guy as a center field savior...

Posted by: truke | July 8, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

When Willie came up for his 3rd at bat, Carpenter sez, "Willie is 0 for 2, with 2 ground out balls."

To which I replied, "Yes he has."

Posted by: johnnybaconbitz | July 8, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, guys. My computer has been acting up today and I'm behind in reading posts. Thanks to Rickety and Flynnie for standing up for Tracee earlier. I liked the piece, and she brought out Lannan's sense of humor nicely, I thought.

SackMan, is that your original moniker or a silent tribute to Willie Harris? Sorry, I couldn't resist getting in on the fun. I'm done now.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 8, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Also, lineups up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 8, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

>Sec 3, see Brue's explanation, above. He does a good job explaining the difference. What would be surprising is to see power increase, you'd expect a slight dip in SLG due to the smaller swing.

Thanks. The power increase would again come from the hitter taking advantage of a pitcher that needs to throw strikes. Let's say a guy has four pitches, but only two that are working for him, or that he trusts. You look for one of those two pitches. One of them is usually a fastball because everybody's got a decent one. Then you look for the ball in a certain spot, because the pitcher is more likely to aim for the center of the plate in a jam. The percentages go way up in favor of the hitter with men on when you eliminate most of the variables. You always have better pitches to hit, and you're more likely to know which pitches will be thrown. The power comes when you look for a ball in a particular spot.

Posted by: Brue | July 8, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

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