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Quality Starts, Walks and Foul Balls

It takes some digging, I admit, because the Nationals are playing some of their most oppressive baseball of the season. But not every element of this team's recent performance is unpalatable. So, for the sake of sanity and variety, I'll begin with three things to feel good about.

1.) Livo. As one NL scout put it on Wednesday, "He's getting by on pure guile right now." I love watching Hernandez pitch. He works the corners, he keeps it low, and every so often, he'll throw one of those outlandish Dr. Seuss breaking balls at 64 mph. So far, Livo has made five starts with the Nats, and yes, the team is 1-4 in those outings. But that is misleading. Hernandez has a 4.18 ERA with Washington. In the team's 19 games since Hernandez signed, the starting pitchers have contributed eight quality starts. Livo has four of them.

2.) Willie Harris. In his last five games, Harris has walked... 10 times. In 15 at bats! (In other words, 25 plate appearances.) Cristian Guzman has 16 walks all season.

3.) This guy. Just terrific.

Now, some other links floating around the NatsTown information superhighway.

Another night, another loss to the Phillies.

The Daily News takes a closer look at Jayson Werth's grand slam.

Bryce Harper hoopla, per Baseball America.

Jim Riggleman answers a few questions from fans.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 17, 2009; 11:20 AM ET
 
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Next: Lineups From Citizens Bank

Comments

Hey, Chico, thanks for digging for the good things (though your snark has been pretty darned funny in recent posts, IMO).

I felt bad for Livo, and I called the grand slam at 1-1. I also laughed when the miked Dunn referenced Livo's 57 MPH pitch in San Diego. I recall seeing some of those at Nats Park as well, during starts for the Mets and later the Nats.

Also, carrying forward:

Hey, Natstown. I've been away and am still catching up with blog reading, but you'd best believe this one brought me out of the woodwork. I must have clicked away before that part of the game the other night, though I did watch all of last night's game, even after the salami. Re. the video, the little girl is adorable, but daddy's from South Jersey and is a Phillies fan? hmmm...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 17, 2009 11:24 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 17, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Yes, they are playing bad bad bad baseball. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me watching is Carpenter and Dibble, who play well off one another. Occasionally they get repetitive, but so is the bad bad bad baseball we all have to watch so that is understandable.

Posted by: NatsFly | September 17, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"Q: Stephen, I'm sure you've heard a lot of people mention the history of number one draft picks, especially pitchers. Do you think that all pertains to you, and what do you make of that history?

[Strasburg and Bryce Harper Agent, SCOTT] BORAS: If I may interrupt. When a journalist talks about number one draft picks, you're including high school and college players. The repertoire for college players is extraordinarily high for success. For high school, it's not. So I think you have to differentiate... So when we talk about success ratios I think we have to factor that in. "

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal/2009/08/the_stephen_strasburg_whirlwin.html

-----
I just wanted to post a quote that Rizzo should have framed on his wall if the Nats intend on picking Bryce Harper.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | September 17, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"I'll begin with three things to feel good about.

1.) Livo."

On the mound, yes. At the plate, not so much.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 17, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of draft picks, Crow is signing with the Royals:
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4480606

This article claims that being close to home is a factor. If he signs for the same money that he turned down for the Nats, then I hope being close to home was very important, because the lost developmental time and not having the potential to see the MLB roster and start his service time could cost him millions in the long run. Good luck to him, I hope he's happy in KC. He certainly did not want to pitch there to win many more games!

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | September 17, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Would that be when one is behind him in the buffet line? (Oh, no, I didn't.)

---

On the mound, yes. At the plate, not so much.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 17, 2009 11:39 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 17, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

if the nats can't get pitchers who throw hard enough to make opposing batters swing and miss, then mccatty needs to show them how to effectively back guys off the plate. the phillies and marlins are so comfortable against the nats mostly tastee-freeze throwing staff that they practically set up light housekeeping in the batters boxes. the nats pitchers need to show a little snarl and keep those guys honest.

Posted by: surly_w | September 17, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

@TheEclipse

The bunt was okay, Desmond base running was not. And you did not like the double Livan smoked his next at bat?

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | September 17, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Currently, Harper is attending trials for the US Under-18 National Team in North Carolina. A bunch of intrasquad scrimmages are going on, and Harper's team has won all four. He has seen time at C, CF, DH and P and is 4/12, with 3 2Bs, 3 BBs, 4 RBI and 3 SB. Once the team is picked it will play in Venezuela in the Pan Am U-18 Championships.
There are some other names from that BA list participating, in case anyone thinks that Harper won't be worth it.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | September 17, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"The bunt was okay, Desmond base running was not. And you did not like the double Livan smoked his next at bat?"

I did not see the game last night, just read accounts of it. So I don't know if Desmond screwed up or not. But runners on first and third is not a situation where a smart batter would decide on his own to bunt. Especially a batter who can hit, as Livan can. The batter owes it to any runners on base to not deliberately and without warning do things that are beyond the realm of normal expectation. Livo's a smart pitcher, he ought to be a smart hitter too.

And this is at least the second time Livo has pulled this stunt. If Riggleman or anyone else talked to him after the first time, he apparently wasn't listening.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 17, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

A story like this little girl with the foul ball would never happen in Washington. The parents would be decried for child abuse for forcing their child to watch Nats.

Posted by: MBUSA | September 17, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

It was hard to say why Listach would have sent Desmond on a safety squeeze that was five feet from home plate, but it also looked like Desmond was a little too far off the bag and was ripe to be thrown out. I was more surprised that Livo bunted after a swinging strike one. If I'm the manager and we have a good hitting pitcher like Livo, I'm going to let him hit away with one out. The chances were probably better that Livo would hit a sac fly or get a base hit vs. put down a good bunt which the Phillies appeared to be expecting anyways.

Posted by: wizfan89 | September 17, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"It was hard to say why Listach would have sent Desmond on a safety squeeze that was five feet from home plate, but it also looked like Desmond was a little too far off the bag and was ripe to be thrown out."

The point is that neither Listach or Desmond knew that Livo was going to bunt because Livo made that decision all by himself. As far as the baserunners and the coaches knew, there wasn't a play on. You can't go faulting baserunners for making mistakes when the batter is doing nonsensical things they aren't even aware of.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 17, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

If Livo ever decides to bunt again with a guy at third base--and I admit that's as likely as him passing on seconds on the fajitas at the post-game buffet--here's a suggestion: make it a suicide, not a safety squeeze. Livo has as good or better bat control than anybody we have. He'll put the ball in play. The problem is our runner at third getting a proper read on it. With a suicide, that's all removed. Just run, baby.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | September 17, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

1. Point of Information: For it to be a suicide squeeze, the runner on third has to break for home **on the pitcher's first movement home**, which won't happen if the hitter is ad-libbing up there.
2. Yes, he's a better hitter than most pitchers, and some position players, but he's still the pitcher. With runners on first and third with one out, fairly early in a close game, it is not unusual for the pitcher to bunt the runner on first over to second, and hope the top of the order can get a hit to score them both. I think Livo forgot what team he's on for a minute there. (Still, I'd rather he swung away, personally.)

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 17, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Put it another way: if the catcher has time to stand up, run several yards, pick up the ball, stop, straighten up, and throw, and still get Desmond, who isn't slow, by five feet, what would have happened if Livo just lays off a fastball way outside? They probably throw him out at third.

My red-headed Cubs fan wife and I looked at each other and said, in unison, "Where was Desmond going? What was he thinking?!"

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 17, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

My favorite line from the Bos chat today:

"Utley is a joy to watch. He makes a fool out of a different Nat every night. I hate him."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 17, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I guess that should be "lines." In other news, good to know that Chico seems to have recovered from his shock at Teddy's having been disqualified last week (as reported in the Bos chat from last week). ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 17, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

For TheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome and others wondering about Livo's bunt being called for or not, I watched the game and there was a brief in-game interview with Riggleman, who said point blank that Livo was not supposed to bunt and that this was the second time he had ignored directions, with the other one resulting in a double play. He was visibly ticked at Livo and didn't blame Desmond.

Posted by: NatsFly | September 17, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"With runners on first and third with one out, fairly early in a close game, it is not unusual for the pitcher to bunt the runner on first over to second"

Of course that's not unusual. But the pitcher should only be bunting when told to, because the runners need to know that there's a play on too. That's Baseball 101.

Really, the only time that ANYONE should be bunting when not told to is if the bases are empty and he's bunting for a base hit, or possibly if there's only a runner on first (or first and second) and the batter decides to sacrifice - because of course the runners need to advance then no matter how the ball is hit. Even then, though, it's always better if the runnner knows what's going on instead of having to find out even a split second after the fact. Because in baseball a split second can be the difference between safe and out.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 17, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

OK, just so I don't get too out of balance with the "They're bums! BUMS, I tellya!"--I'll relay some interesting, possibly arbitrary, numbers on minor league shortstops and fielding percentages, from Boswell's chat:

**************************
Tom Boswell: Ian Desmond!!!

The 23-year-old shortstop had two more hits last night includinmg a double off the wall off Joe Blanton. He's now gotten to play four games __only four__ and is 10-for-17 with four doubles, a 460-foot home run and 4 RBI, plus a walk. He looks comfotrable and patien at the plate.

He's had a long, long trip to the big leagues. When the Nats first came to town he was a 19-year-old prospect in Viera and everybody raved about him as the future-star in the franchise. And I remember him making a coupleof amazing defensve plays. But he's had two years damaged by injury, he's made a ton of errors (as well as spectacular plays) and didn't really break out as a hitter until this year __.30 in 348 at bats at AA and AAA (.354 in 178 abs at Syracuse).

The big worry has been his errors. In six years in the minors, his fielding percentage is .936 __very bad__ with 189 errors. So, I wondered how others had fielded in the minors where you get bad hops, bad first basemen who can't save you from errors, etc.

Here are the career MINOR league fielding percentages of a bunch of MLB shortstops and their MLB percentages afterward to see their improvement.

Jeter --.934 to .976

Guzman --.937 to .971

Hanley Ramirez--.939 to .971

R Fucal --.931 to .966

S Drew --.944 to .976

Y Escobar --.957 to .976

Isturis --.965 to .980

Nick Green --.925 to .957

Theriot--.953 to .976.

Alex Gonzalez (Reds) --.942 to.970

Asdrubal Cabrera --.955 to .974

Troy Tulowitski --.948 to .987 !!

So, as you see, EVERYBODY improves and several improve a TON. Jeter, Guzman, Ramirez and Furcal are fascinating comps."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 17, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

"For TheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome and others wondering about Livo's bunt being called for or not,"

I wasn't wondering. I knew the bunt hadn't been called. That's been my point all along. Two instances now of irresponsible batting by Livo.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 17, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't have minded if Livan had done this on a veteran team who might know what they were doing and might have expected it. Doing this to poor Ian Desmond is just child abuse.

Posted by: swang30 | September 17, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

@Eclipse: All true enough. But Desmond was still too far off. If Livan swings and still hits that same little dribbler, you've got to be able to get back. Likewise getting caught off on a humpbacked, broken-bat soft liner to first (Guzman?), getting caught off base on a can of corn to the outfield (Maxwell?), and almost grounding out 9-3 (Nieves).

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 17, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

All true enough. But Desmond was still too far off. If Livan swings and still hits that same little dribbler, you've got to be able to get back. Likewise getting caught off on a humpbacked, broken-bat soft liner to first (Guzman?), getting caught off base on a can of corn to the outfield (Maxwell?), and almost grounding out 9-3 (Nieves).

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 17, 2009 2:48 PM
------------------------------------------------

Excuse my naivte, but I always thought a can of corn meant an easy fly ball. When Maxwell got doubled up, that ball (from watching on TV) looked like it could have fell and the fielder made a pretty good catch. I am not sure how far Maxwell went (apparently too far...), but he did need to advance some in case the ball was dropped.

Posted by: TimDz | September 17, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

If the ball dropped, I meant to say...

Posted by: TimDz | September 17, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

ESPN.com reports the Royals are close to signing he who didn't want be a National.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=4480606&type=story

Posted by: leetee1955 | September 17, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Last night was one of the worst, or most frustrating games of the season IMHO. Base running errors galore. But I hate to say it, but the Phillies play a nice brand of baseball. Too many times teams just make the easy play because that's what you're supposed to do - I was completely impressed with Utley not just tossing to first and instead nailing Bard. And Blanton going to third on the bunt later in the game to nail whomever that was on 2nd. They also scored the run on Howard stealing with Utley on third - and did that probably because they knew it would work against the Nats. It's just a different brand of ball. I hate 'em, but they play the way the game should be played. Go Nats, I'm still with you, just start running the bases like you've been there before, please.

Posted by: AsstGM | September 17, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

We've got plenty of guys leetee1955. It may be that Nathan Karns is better than Crow? We'll have to see how that works out ... at this point, day after reliever allows grandslam, I think they need Storen more don't you?

Posted by: periculum | September 17, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Mine too, 1a, mine too.

Posted by: Section506 | September 17, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

As long as we keep losing we can draft Bryce Harper #1. Apparently this guy is like the Lebron of baseball. The Nats certainly suck now but with all Stras and then Harper we should be good down the road.

Posted by: anthonyschall | September 17, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps "can of corm" was a slight overstatement, but it didn't look like a difficult catch to me--I could be wrong. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they (used to) say--he got thrown out, therefore he was too far off.

*********
Excuse my naivete, but I always thought a can of corn meant an easy fly ball. When Maxwell got doubled up, that ball (from watching on TV) looked like it could have fell and the fielder made a pretty good catch. I am not sure how far Maxwell went (apparently too far...), but he did need to advance some in case the ball was dropped.

Posted by: TimDz | September 17, 2009 2:55 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 17, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Sec3 is redeemed by getting the pudding idiom right.

Posted by: Section506 | September 17, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Bryce Harper's in the 18U league:
9/14:
2-5, 1R, 4RBI, 2SB

9/16:
0-0 (2 walks) 1SB, 1R

Posted by: imlazar | September 18, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

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