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Will the close wins keep coming?

The Nationals have won seven one-run games, tied with the Cincinnati Reds for most in the major leagues. Clutch hits and lights-out late relief pitching lifted the Nationals to another victory yesterday, and over the course of this season it has lifted them to a second-place tie. Is their late-inning success a sustainable model for racking up wins, or does it portend a coming drop-off?

The tight wins help conceal the fact that the Nationals, based on run differential, have actually been outplayed this year. The Nationals have been outscored 146-129 this season, an average of .5 runs per game. Their actual record of 17-14 stands in contrast to their Pythagorean winning percentage, which is based on run differential, of 14-17. The three-game difference -- or "luck factor" -- is the second largest in the majors.

The Nationals, of course, have not simply gotten lucky in late innings. They have come up with the clutch hit and especially provided clutch pitching. "That's what good teams do," Adam Dunn said. The confidence from having played and won so many close games builds on itself. As Josh Willingham said, "Baseball is a confidence-related sport."

A good portion of the Nationals' success in close games owes to Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard, the league leaders in saves and wins, respectively. (Yes, some of the wins by Clippard speak to how silly the win stat is.) Their dominance explains the Nationals late-inning success, but it also offers a potential reason for why it'll be so hard to sustain. Capps is on pace to appear in 88 games, and Clippard is on pace to appear in 84.

"We've got to back off of them," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "We're asking so much of them, and they're answering every time. But I'm anxious to see some other guys deep in the ballgame in some other situations, too. We can't kept riding them day after day."

The Nationals have become one of the league's most pleasant surprises because of their ability to win close games. It remains to be seen if they can count on narrow victories for the whole season. One reason for optimism is that their 4.2 runs per game figures to go up, and if it does they may not have to win so many close ones.

"For some reason, we're starting off really slowly," Dunn said. "That's really the last thing I'm worried about, is our offense. That's going to come around."

FROM THE POST

As Josh Willingham hits his mother a home run, the Nationals earned a rare series victory over the Florida Marlins with a 3-2 win.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse was snowed out. Yep, snow.

Harrisburg 6, Richmond 3: Mike MacDougal earned the win after a blowing a save in the eighth. Jeff Mandel allowed two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings on three hits and three walks. Jonathan Solano went 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBI.

Kinston 3, Potomac 2 (10 innings): Dan Nelson went 2 for 4 with a home run. Dan Leatherman struck out five in 2 2/3 innings of relief, allowing no runs on two hits and one walk.

Augusta 6, Hagerstown 5: Destin Hood went 3 for 3 with three RBIs. Hood is batting .339 this season.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Buster Olney guesses June 8 against the Pirates for Stephen Strasburg's debut.

Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger calls Strasburg "a symbol of progress" for the Nationals as he begins his time in Class AAA.

The Nats are forging a new identity, writes Ben Goessling.

From the New York Post, a quick look at the state of the Mets after their loss to the Giants yesterday.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 10, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 31 discussion thread: Nationals vs. Marlins
Next: Norris returns, Willingham produces, more on 'luck'

Comments

The run differential is a little misleading I think.

They lost 5 of their first 8 games (badly), with a run differential of -30 in those 5 losses and were at -25 overall at that point (4/14).

Since April 15, the team is 14-9 with a run differential of +8 (96-88), unless my math is wrong and it probably is.

Still a small sample, but the numbers are obviously skewed from those early blowouts. The number of close games might be a concern, but I don't think you can make the argument that they've been outplayed based on run differential.

Posted by: thoward1223 | May 10, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The key to being able to back off Clip & Save is not only finding another reliable reliever. It's doing some hitting so that a 3-2 game becomes a 7-2 game. A power bat in RF would help...

Posted by: Section222 | May 10, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I very much concur with 222 re the hitting. That would be a great way to save the big guys.

And thoward, I think you've got it. Someone mentioned last time this came up that Pythagorean may not have been designed to work with so few games -- I believe Bill James only tested it with full-season records, where a few blowouts have more chance to even out.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 10, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I saw that it was snowing in Syracuse yesterday, unbelievable! So that's a suspended game on Saturday and a postponement Sunday - what will that do to Strasburg's schedule? Will be pitch on Thursday morning now?

Posted by: Kev29 | May 10, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

THE L.U.C.K. FACTOR= LABORING UNDER CORRECT KNOWLEDGE!!! GO NATS!

Posted by: dargregmag | May 10, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and specifically on the close-game thing: I always presume that a team can't keep up a great winning pace in one-run games. Again, Bill James pretty well showed it can't be reliably done. But a) anything can happen in one year; 2) a strong closer probably helps; and iii) a manager with a knack for using the whole roster probably helps as well. So I'll just watch what happens and celebrate the wins we do get.

And you know, winning some more blowouts will make the record in one-run games less important.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 10, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

This Pythagorean winning percentage is the silliest fad-stat I've seen in quite some time.

Anyone who claims that the first 30 games are statistically identical to a full season hasn't followed baseball for very long. Clippard will not win 31 games, and he will not be 21-0 when blowing a save, no matter what ESPN projects. http://tinyurl.com/2ef3as8

These Nats find ways to win, and they will find new ways to win as the season goes on. They have solid players, an excellent manager, and well-founded confidence. Just watch them, and give them the respect they have earned.

Posted by: hungrypug | May 10, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Pythagorean or blah blah thagorean.... It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is the curly W after the game. No one would care how close the Nats are to being good if there record was 10 - 17 with 8 one run losses.....

Go Nats!!!

Posted by: punchdaclock | May 10, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The 2005 Nats got off to their hot start the same way; by winning 1 and 2 run games. We saw how that caught up with them as the grind and injuries wore them down later in the summer. I think we can expect a regression to the mean at some point this season as well. I echo the sentiments already expressed... they need to find a way to win games without requiring saves. They need both the offense to build a 4+ run lead and the arms to make those leads stand while Clippard and Capps sit. The times this season they've had 4 or 5 run leads into the late innings they've given up runs late (Batista, Bruney) and forced one or both into the game or at the very least to get up in the pen which is almost as bad.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | May 10, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

The good news is - this looks a lot like 2005. The bad news is - this looks a lot like 2005.

I'm hoping the difference is that this year there is reason to expect run production to improve.

I've been worried about the run differential for a while now, but thoward makes the important point that it has improved in recent weeks. The Nats have been dead last in the NL East in terms of "expected" (or Pythagorean) W-L, and I think now they are only tied for last. But the improvement seems largely due to better than expected pitching.

I'm loving the actual W-L, but it feels precarious.

Posted by: KenNat | May 10, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Was at the game yesterday--a few thoughts.
There was hardly a peep out of the fans the entire game. ALmosat like a golf tournament it was so quiet. No Go Nats chants. Hardly any clapping. There was a small group of Marlins students near left field and they made more noise than the entire stadium of Nats fans. No wave--nothing.
Very strange.

Despite that, great game, beautiful day for baseball and a great win. Everything is better when the Nats win.
But come on peeps, make some noise.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 10, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Jason Marquis alone accounts for one of those three "luck factor" games, if not two.

Posted by: CletusVanDamme | May 10, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Clippard and Capps might need a mental rest, but I still don't see why a professional relief pitcher cannot pitch one inning just about every game when needed. Capps is consistent, game in and game out though. Clippard is still a little nerve-wracking, but he's effectively unpredictable to opposing hitters. Livan Hernandez is just enjoyable to watch pitch.

The Nats are not lucky - they're a good team. The negative run differential was due to some blowouts early in the season. Now they're confident and really do have a pretty dangerous line-up 1 through 8 with a very good mix of power and speed. I think this team has some good staying power and you still have Strasburg and Storen looming, Wang and Detwiler rehabbing, and guys like Flores and Morse rehabbing as well. This is a team with alot of depth as well.

Posted by: AsstGM | May 10, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

the difference between 2005 and now is useful AAA pitching.

Posted by: longterm | May 10, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

2 things will keep this season (hopefully) from fading like 2005. 2 pitchers, currently in the minors.

And as much as we know Strasburg is coming, Storen will help Clippard quit a bit as well.

Posted by: keepandbear | May 10, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The constant remains the lack position player depth at the major and minor league levels; but this isn't news. We all knew this going into this and the next couple of seasons. The quickest fix of course means opening up the FA bankbook or start trading pitching for offense. The problem is that getting a power hitting RF who doesn't kill you defensively is going to cost more than the Nats want to spend right now. They're on the path to respectability but not far enough to start parting with prospects. I'm sure they're pleased with the success of the '10 season to date but will play it ultra conservative knowing that they're not realistically looking to make a run this year.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | May 10, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Yes this whole run differential Pythagorean thing to me is absurd. They lost a few games in the beginning with blowouts. Heck you just removed the bad games of Marquis from your equation and that should even things out.

Posted by: alex35332 | May 10, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I would love to know when Destin Hood will get called up to Potomac. I just moved to Woodbridge and I live about 2 mins away from the stadium. Once Norris is back and Hood is called up, I might have to snag a couple of tickets. For now, there really isn't much to get excited about down there....well maybe Burgess. But thats about it.

Posted by: FloresFan | May 10, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Destin Hood looks like he's coming along nicely. If he can improve his Walk to Strikeout ratio I see a promotion in his near future. Be great to see, too, because he's got all the tools.

Posted by: mjsciann1 | May 10, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

But come on peeps, make some noise.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 10, 2010 11:10 AM

I hear where you're coming from (no pun intended). It's going to take a couple years of respectability - maybe a trip to the postseason - before people really start identifying themselves as enthusiastic Nats fans.

It's too bad, because in 2005 the base looked to be there. For shame, Lerners. I always thought we'd be able to draw similar to teams like the Tigers, Mariners, Rangers, etc (decent enough base with spikes for good seasons) - but the Lerners are taking us on the painful Rays attendance path. Scorch the earth and it takes awhile to grow.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 10, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Of course Clip, Capps, Livan and Pudge will regress a bit as the season wears on. There are legitimate reasons (physical shape, experience, motivation) for them to do better than their career averages, but not hundreds of BA points better or multiple runs better in ERA (and FIP).

Other differences remain with 2005:
1) Our 3-4 hitting will also regress (positively) closer to their career numbers, and we'll get some more offense (good).
2) Our fielding is significantly better (at least in range), which will prevent runs better than the Vidro-Guz-Castilla statue garden in RFK (also good).
3) Help is on the way--the farm actually holds quality depth, and even signficant 2nd half contributers (very good).
4) The NL East is significantly better than it was in '05 (bad).

Posted by: natinbeantown | May 10, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

We were fortunate that Dunn was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded Saturday for the rbi. As much as confidence in the bullpen is restored this year, I dread Dunn at bat in clutch situations. He strikes out looking far too many times. Some more production by him and we won't have to burn out Clippard and Capps.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | May 10, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I love what the club is doing.

However, the lack of good middle relief pitching, is going to hurt them this year.

You cant have the ball go into play in order to get the out and/ or retire the side.
This will bite them in the butt !

I'm not to worried though. I know Rizzo will fix it.

Posted by: dashriprock | May 10, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Harping back to 2005 is also misleading. After the AllStar game it was obvious that the only thing that was keeping the Nats alive was the bullpen. Livo tailed off, Loiza struggled and JPAT was holding his own (remember his Aug gem against the Dodgers), after that is was a bunch of throw ins, they even had a few guys like John Halama trying to salvage September, it was not good. This go-round is very different, with SS, Wang, Detwiller, maybe a fixed up Marquis they will be able to keep winning those one run games. Also, at some point Rizzo and StanK are going to have to realized that 2011 is already here and the extra piece that StanK always talks about might find its way to RF in say late June or at the trade deadline. Either way its fun to finaly be at the polar opposite. The next 3 against the Mets are really big games, it will set the tone because as for now both the Marlins and Braves have been slayed, its time to do the same thing to the Mets.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 10, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Kev29-
I'll never disagree with the "Lerners squandered '05 goodwill" camp, but I don't think the situation is that bad. This homestand was interesting: 15-17k/game for midweek Braves, 20-22k/game for weekend Marlins (a terrible draw). Not great. But better than the embarrassing 12k Oakland had for a perfect game on a Sunday between two competitive teams.

2 to 2.2 million fans is not unreasonable if they can stay reasonably competitive until school lets out and St. Stephen arrives. That's saying a lot after the '07-09 slow train wreck.

Posted by: natinbeantown | May 10, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I can't figure out how the pitching slots are going to land when we get the full staff. Right now the rotation has Livo, Olsen, Lannan, Stammen, and Atilano.

When Stras is ready Atilano goes down (that's easy), but the next step is harder; Who gets the spot currently held by Stammen between, Stammen, Marquis, Detwiler, and Wang?

Lannan's spot is guaranteed (right?) and we can't replace Olsen and Livo the way they are pitching.

So the rotation is Lannan, Livo, Olsen, Marquis, & Stras? Then the BP is Stammen and Detwiler with Storen, Burnett, Clip, Capps, and Wang? The alternative would be to go with a six man rotation which would be helpful for Stras and Livo as they would be able to go deeper into the season until they "hit the wall.

Thoughts?

Posted by: natsfanintexas | May 10, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Responding to myself I forgot to mention MacDougal in AA right now.

With a worst case scenario of Lannan, Marquis, and Wang (he's progressing slowly) out for the season. I say it becomes

Livo, Olsen, Stras, Detwiler, and Stammen

BP: MacDougal, Storen, Burnett, Clip, Capps, Batista, and Walker(?)

Posted by: natsfanintexas | May 10, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

So many variables. Don't forget that Zimmerman missed about 7 straight games. How well would, say, the Cardinals fare without Pujols for a similar period?

Posted by: shanks1 | May 10, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Yeah - that was kind of sad to see in Oakland yesterday. But people in the East Bay just do not want to go to the Coliseum anymore. Even for the Raiders. What's kind of odd to me is how poorly the Rays draw on the road - they're probably the most interesting team to watch in baseball. Pitching, speed, power, defense, etc. Kind of shows you how baseball attendance these days comes down to how fashionable (plus winning) it is to be at the game (Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies) and not necessarily the collection of players between the lines. The Park has to become a destination.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 10, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

They could always try to square-peg one or two into a reliever role; that's kinda been their MO in recent history.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | May 10, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Winning close games is a good sign. It shows that you have a good manager, because they're the ones that win the close ones. Acta would have had a lot of the same circumstances, and ended up losing games by 3 or 4 runs. Riggs manages a tighter game, so they don't need to score as much. For instance, yesterday Pinella came out to the mound take Ryan Dempster out in the 7th inning, got talked out of it, and he immediately gave up a 3-run homer and the Cubs lose 5-3. Riggs knows you can't listen to a pitcher in the 7th inning unless he's got a no-hitter or a shutout going. Nats probably win that game 3-2 because of it. Once he gets an entirely reliable bullpen, you'll be able to predict his moves, because he's by the book for the most part, and he's aggressive in wanting to hold leads. You can worry about the bullpen, but if RIggs can't get a full inning out of Bruney or Burnett, then he'll take an out or two and move forward, instead of letting someone get lit up like Acta did last year. The starters are already starting to throw more innings now anyway, and it'll probably get better as time goes along. You have to remember that with Pudge behind the plate, they're not gonna put up with a bunch of 100 pitch - 5 inning struggles very often. It's no coincidence that the Nats pitchers are getting all these borderline calls now - they have an expert framing and calling the pitches.

Posted by: Brue | May 10, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I remember back in 2005, when the Sports Reporters actually covered the Nationals. It was probably July, and a caller from Philly warned Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban that the Nats couldn't maintain their record in one-run games.

He was chided as a bitter Phillies fan.

Turns out he was right. These things do find a way of evening out.

I kind of like the Pythagorean W/L equation for that reason. And in the past, we've been on the wrong end of it.

But I can't help hearing that caller from Philly in my head.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 10, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I would opine that quiet baseball fans are not new. Maybe it's a function of where one sits, but I attended plenty of games at RFK where only a few fans in my section (cough, 1b and I) were cheering on the team, or trying to shout down opposing fans. That's not on the Lerners, imo. It's on the fans.

Re. the empty seats in Oakland, I was watching weekly highlights on MLB Network last night, and I remarked to my husband how many of the clips featured scads of empty seats (and I also may have whinged a bit about negative coverage of the Nats in that regard, but I digress). I would suspect that the economy might have a little something to do with the empty seats, wherever they might be.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 10, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

First of all, the Nats need to call up Drew Storen. Yesterday. I know the whole super two deal, but its not like a relief pitcher becoming a FA a year earlier is going to cost us THAT much more money. Lets face it, the Nats need to open up the butt cheeks a little.

Second, we need a RF. Want to relive a little of that 05 magic, why not Jose Guillen? He is definitely available and wouldn't cost that much. I know a lot of you around here hate the guy, but he can provide some pop in the 6-hole of this order. Either way, we need a legit RF and until then we should let Willie Harris be the every day guy there. He's the best we've got right now.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 10, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I think Adam, (perhaps because he wasn't here last year?) is missing a big chunk of the picture. Not just the run differential but the number of runs subtracted due to really insanely poor fielding last year. Although this year's Nats are third worst in errors allowed the overall UZR is pretty darned good. Think about some of the web gem plays this team is generated? If that doesn't lead to "good luck", the "lucky fortune cookie" I don't know what does? The model of solid pitching and defense appears to be working as management felt it might. So, if its luck its manufactured luck from great fielding.

I still see pitching, both starting and a bullpen that must rely entirely on Clippard and Capps to close? They may have to put both Strasburg (for Batista) and Storen (for Bruney) in the bullpen to shore things up. It might actually work with Strasburg he would appear in more games and thus could effect more outcomes. When he needs a rest there is Clippard (who is good against left handed hitters). Perhaps a matchup of Storen and Slaten will work. With Burnett and Walker ... we'll have to see.

Might as well hang it up for Marquis. Just look at the grief Oliver Perez is getting with the Mets. And Marquis was decidedly worst. How long can Livan last? The web gems are most definitely helping his ERA and WHIP. Still? Right now Olsen looks like he is solid. But after that?

Might be worthwhile to consider a trade for Cliff Lee, who knows?

Posted by: periculum | May 10, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I used to love the Coliseum on Tuesday (?) day games. $1 tickets/dogs/beers in Mount Davis. The view was horrible but you can't beat if for an afternoon of baseball, dogs and beers. Plus we're talking the A's with Giambi, Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Tejada, Chavez... it was fun f'ing baseball to watch.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | May 10, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....a few thoughts-always risky when I haven't read all the posts-but here goes...
Yes to the early season blowouts contributing to our misleading run differential.
R.E. right field-what about Hammer? And then put Willie in l.f. full time(the saber crowd rank him as exceptional there defensively.) I just don't believe Bernie, JMax or Morse represents anything more than 4A-these aren't youngsters, in baseball terms....
Desmond-WOW!Heard someone on the team comparing him to an "almost" Zim.Yea! Gonzo, with the pressure to start removed, has looked pretty darn good.
And to my eyes, Clip has looked a teeny bit.....reduced?-as of late. Seems much better with an empty slate.GOT to get more help at the back end!And we need to start hitting the dang ball-offensively, I would categorize us as barely adequate so far-c'mon Adam(s)! And oh. Dargreg-I like your "L.U.C.K." (Although living down there in Choptown seems to have separated you from all the "love" up here!Some brutal-tho still astute-observations.This AIN"T the Nats of '09, or 08, or) ....And One question:who's hotter-Stephen Currys' mom or DeLinos? Ha!
I got a feeling Bruney is gonna be O.K., now that the beard is gone.
Love to all of you folks....MAN, sure is nice having an MLB team to worry about-feels almost petty to find fault with 'em right now.
But as many of you all have pointed out, it's a long season and what's merely troubling now may prove disastrous then (see my pal Dargreg-and others).
We're on a pace to win 88.8387 games-altough I keep pointing to my 85 win prediction, I believe in a fit of insanity at the end of Spring Training, I actually upped it to 88-90....hey, dreaming's free!
Lastly-ole' Thom Loverro has a blog on ESPN 980 and still occasionally writes about our Nats. They were Gnats when he was holding the Slow Lerners feet to the fire-long before, and much more harshly, than the rest of the pack, IMHO.The piece up to today is a good one(even if I was a big Dukes fan).
NOW...as long as it's goin' good right now-SWEEP THE METS!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | May 10, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@douglevine: I was at yesterday's game too. I was too freaking cold to cheer much. Ended up in the team store in the 4th inning buying a long-sleeved shirt to make it to the end of the game.

Watched Saturday's game on TV and the crowd was LOUD. So who knows. Crowd dynamics vary from day to day.

Posted by: JennX_ | May 10, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Other RFs aside from J. Guillen to go after who wouldn't cost much that could provide pop: Luke Scott or Russell Branyan.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 10, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"Lannan's spot is guaranteed (right?)"

Ummmmm, I sure hope not.

Posted by: jedd_narsavage | May 10, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I would suspect that the economy might have a little something to do with the empty seats, wherever they might be.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 10, 2010 12:23 PM

I really try to avoid things like the economy, weather, school year and summer when looking at a team's attendance. They have poor weather, economic concerns and school in Boston, New York, St. Louis, Philly and San Francisco too - but draw very well.

Winning + desirable stadium experience = attendance

Posted by: Kev29 | May 10, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Mike Morse is still the best offensive guy they have short of Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham. The 28 year old offers the best solution, bar none, to any short-term lack in offense. He can play right field, and he sure has the arm for it. But his own lack of confidence in the field seems to get in his way? M. Rizzo plans on bringing him back after rehab, and most assuredly trying him again in right field before making any decisions about getting a right fielder.

Posted by: periculum | May 10, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I agree we need help at RF. It would take pressure off the pen big time. The problem is who is that rightfielder? Most outfielders either have bloated contracts or are to valuable to their team. Also to get a quality guy you will have to loose quality guy or two. With all the pitching that the Nats have coming down the pipe we could loose a pitcher. The person who makes sence is Lannan his stock is high right now.

The deal that would be good for both clubs is Lannan and Guzman to the Indians for Sizemore and a prospect.


The nats would get:

Sizemore (27) who can hit for power, has range in the outfield, steals bases and was drafted by the Expos in 2000. Sizemores number is only under 6 million per year.

Plus a prospect for the future

The Indians would get:

Lannan who whould be a great third man in that rotation.

The Indians have problems at 2nd their guy is hitting .152. Guzie would fix that. Also the Indians have a CF in AAA that they want to bring up.

Posted by: hansenjo | May 10, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

@Floresfan: I asked the same question about Destin Hood over at Nationals Farm Authority (NFA) and Brian's thought was that Rizzo will keep Hood in Hagerstown for the full season, as Rizzo seems to be more patient of a GM. He used Norris as an example of one who was killing the ball in Low A, but was kept there the entire year.

I also read the NJ Star Ledger piece (Conor Orr), who referred to Pudge as a "Journeyman." I don't think a future hall of famer can be confused with a "Jouneyman." Maybe I am wrong, but that seemed like a dig at Pudge. Any thoughts on that, folks?

Posted by: TimDz | May 10, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Concerning Strasburgs call-up date and knowing the way the Lerners think, look for Sunday June 6 for his first start. Because then the team can get 3 home starts out of him in June. And they want/need big attendance right now.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 10, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

@hsnsenjo: Sizemore getting traded would set of a riot in the Mistake by the Lake.

Besides that, getting Sizemore AND a prospect for an infielder with NO upside whatsoever and a fair (not really good and definately not great) starter?

If the Indian's GM makes that offer, Rizzo should:
A) Jump on it and,
B) Notify the Cleveland Mental Health Commission and tell them to get a room ready for Cleveland's "former" GM.

Posted by: TimDz | May 10, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I think it's fairly plausible to think the Nats could keep this pace the rest of the year. Their pitching may slide a little but their hitting should get better as well--keeping them on pace for .500 ball.

Posted by: richs91 | May 10, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Not luck. The disparity between Capps / Clippard and the rest of the bullpen explains the difference. Capps and Clip pitch in close games (and keep them close) or games that we are up. When we are down the rest of the bullpen help extend the deficit thus making our losses more lopsided.

Pudge is NL MVP of Apr/May

Posted by: clublvlorbetter | May 10, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"Watched Saturday's game on TV and the crowd was LOUD. So who knows. Crowd dynamics vary from day to day."

You can't really trust what you hear over TV or radio to gauge the level of crowd noise at a game, because they crank up the gain on the crowd mics if the crowd isn't supplying enough noise on its own. If there's ever a rain delay or other situation that results in a crowd down in the hundreds, they've got it cranked up so high that you can hear individual fans yelling - which can sometimes prove embarassing (or entertaining, depending on how you look at it).

Posted by: nunof1 | May 10, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Zim question: Who works with the infielders on our team? Zim has been lately addicted to side-arm throws and a lot of them are wild or at the least pull Dunn off the bag where he is forced to tag the runners. Is anyone else noticing this and is anyone working with Zim on his throws? This is a really bad habit for him to get into.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 10, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I really try to avoid things like the economy, weather, school year and summer when looking at a team's attendance. They have poor weather, economic concerns and school in Boston, New York, St. Louis, Philly and San Francisco too - but draw very well.

Winning + desirable stadium experience = attendance

----------

But in a poor economic situation, you need a greater chance or winning or a greater desirability of stadium experience to encourage your attendance. I know that in my precarious job position, even I've cut back my attendance to only once per homestand, and watch on TV instead.

So maybe
(Winning + desirable stadium experience) / economic hit of attending a game = attendance

For St. Louis, Boston, and New York, they are all experiencing an economic hit, but the winning and desirable stadium experience are high enough that it still leads to attendance. In DC, not so much right now.

Posted by: Section506 | May 10, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Sizemore and a prospect for Lannan and teh Gooz? Are you serious?

Posted by: CletusVanDamme | May 10, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Last year was the very first time Willingham appeared in right field. Have to assume there is a reason? Range, a slightly below average arm? He is about average overall in left field his primary position in the majors. In the minors it was mostly catcher, and then 3rd base.

Posted by: periculum | May 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

"Watched Saturday's game on TV and the crowd was LOUD. So who knows. Crowd dynamics vary from day to day."

You can't really trust what you hear over TV or radio to gauge the level of crowd noise at a game, because they crank up the gain on the crowd mics if the crowd isn't supplying enough noise on its own. If there's ever a rain delay or other situation that results in a crowd down in the hundreds, they've got it cranked up so high that you can hear individual fans yelling - which can sometimes prove embarassing (or entertaining, depending on how you look at it).

---------

However, I was at the game Sunday and it was loud.

Posted by: Section506 | May 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

First of all I am a little disappointed at how little attention the Post gives the Nats. Redskin pratices and personnel issues as well as the distant NBA playoffs seem more important than our ball club. You generally find reports of Nats wins squeezed into the lower part of the first page of the sports page almost as an after thought. Second it appears your sports writers are struggling with the Nats success so far this season. The Nats are winning games they would have lost last season because of bad defense and bad pitching. Those two aspects of the game have been corrected (at least for the moment) so now we have a better record. I think it would help attendence if the Post would feature the Nats instead of downplaying them. However, Nats ticket prices are far to high given the need to build up strong fan support and their poor record over the past few seasons. Don't forget we waited over 30 years for a ball team and know we finally have a competitive one. I hope the Nats will offer more ticket deals especially for the better seats.

Posted by: BuckandFlo | May 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

The alternative would be to go with a six man rotation which would be helpful for Stras and Livo as they would be able to go deeper into the season until they "hit the wall.
Thoughts?
Posted by: natsfanintexas

Interesting, out-of-the-box idea that maximizes Livo and SS by limiting their innings. Potentially increases their effectiveness and keeps SS pitching deeper into the season. The BP hasn't depended on numbers of pitchers to succeed so far. If Wang and Detwiler can fill that role a 6-man rotation would be interesting. Only disclaimer comes from Stammen who feels too strong with too much rest. Sinker flattens out, and he gets hit. But on balance, I like your idea. Anyone else want to jump in?

Posted by: fpcsteve | May 10, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

st. stephen is much better than jesus. i would also gladly buy a $10 Strasburger.

Posted by: longterm | May 10, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Someone either likes the Indians way too much, or Sizemore? I'll take Upton over Sizemore if the Rays are still talking to Rizzo about it.

Posted by: periculum | May 10, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

This team differs a great deal from the 2005 version the main thing is MLB owned the 05 edition and this 2010 team has better talent, F.Robby dragged the 05 Nats kicking and screaming into first place by the all star break and then no money,no help, and lack of pitching and real talent caught up with them as the season wore on,Riggs has got Rizzo and the Lerners the question is will they seize the moment if they continue to surprise? I wonder if Livan has an incentive laden contract and is that the reason Riggleman pulled him from the game yesterday(orders from up top)i mean he had the Marlins off balance for most of the game except for the Ramierez solo to RF, just hated to see him not get the win Sunday.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 10, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

" If Wang and Detwiler can fill that role a 6-man rotation would be interesting. Only disclaimer comes from Stammen who feels too strong with too much rest. Sinker flattens out, and he gets hit. "

The assumption you are making here is that Detwiler can beat out Chico, Thompson and Chuck James. I'm not sure he can at this point give the way they are pitching?

As for Wang, I still expect to see Zimmermann in the rotation by August well ahead of Wang. And for that we should all be thankful.

Posted by: periculum | May 10, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

>>However, I was at the game Sunday and it was loud. Posted by: Section506

Are you nuts? What game were you at?

Posted by: dovelevine | May 10, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Saturday's game. I was there; it was loud. Gorgeous day, Great game. Everyone around us was focused on the game, including my 15-year-old whose attention has been known to wander. There was a group behind us that kept up "Let's Go Nats" (later to become "Let's Go Capps" throughout the game. But maybe it was just our section.

I did notice that the crowd tended to ignore the exhortations on the scoreboard to make noise and chose their own opportunities.

Posted by: luxetveritas | May 10, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

If you are interested in a professional weekly online Nationals podcast, tune in today at 5:30pm at Primesportsnetwork.com as Greg DePalma & Dave Nichols, editor of NatsNewsNetwork.Blogspot.com will discuss everything going on with the Nats in 2010. Today, Greg & Dave will discuss the following topics...Lannan's struggles; Olsen is back; Slaten is up; why is Taveras still on the team; can Bernandia solve the RF position or are they going to make a deal? how much longer do they give Bruney, Walker & Batista before making way for Storen & company.

Also every week Greg & Dave will update the latest in the Nats minor league systems. This week...Colton Willems retires; who are the new guys like Chuck James, Rafael Martin, Andrew Brown & Chase Lambin. Others who might be discussed include pitchers...McDougal, Kown, Ballester, Peralta, Severino, Thompson, Carr, Garate, Alaniz, Peacock, Beno, Kimball, Rosenbaum, Holder, Weaver & Vasquez...hitters include Mench, Whitesell, Bynum, Marrero, Valdez, Burgess, Lombardozzi, Kobernus, Hood & Souza.

Injury/Rehab update will include Marquis, Morse, Flores, Norris, Detwiler, Mock, Wang & Zimmermann.

Organizational interviews will be booked soon too.

Posted by: gdpsports | May 10, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Does it matter? You need a little bit of both to win in this league. Besides, our team's make-up (by-and-large) lends itself to close games. We do have some boppers, but most of our runs are manufactured - which requires timely hitting.

Posted by: BT23 | May 10, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"However, I was at the game Sunday and it was loud."

I watched both Saturday's and Sunday's games on TV/radio (some of each for both), and they sounded equally loud. Hence my point.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 10, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

As for Wang, I still expect to see Zimmermann in the rotation by August well ahead of Wang. And for that we should all be thankful.

Posted by: periculum

The interesting thing about Wang is this: Some folks rolled him up into a two-man group with Olsen. The conventional wisdom was that neither would pitch again because of shoulder injuries. Olsen has proven that wrong. If Wang pulls an "Olsen" we have a wildcard on our hands with the pitching staff. He helps us on the mound or creates the possibility of having enough pitching to make a move or two. By the end of July a deperate team might make a trade with the Nats where they overpay for the help they're looking for. Either way we win. Too soon to write off the Wang signing. He might get us this year's Nyjer Morgan.

Posted by: fpcsteve | May 10, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

excess pitching will lead to a right fielder. until then, i just hope we have enough pitching.

Posted by: longterm | May 10, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I love Capss and Clippard as the closer and set up man.

My concern with Clippard, however, is the number of inherited runners he allows to score. Granted in Sunday's game the man on 1st was Bruney's. However, the runner scored but the ER was credited to Bruney.

Clippard gets the win after blowing the hold. I think Clippard is pitching well but just as another poster wrote, he is a little scary at times w/ such a small lead.

Posted by: jlegg | May 10, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

just a sample of Mets fans special angst from the NYPost article. And they've been winning lately:

"sfacheem 05/10/2010 12:32 PM
I was sick of Ollie Periz in 2008.
I was sick of David Wright and John Maine last year in 2009.
I'm already sick of Jason Bay.
What a freakin' mess. Where do we find these bums? And don't start yammering at me about Wright. I can't tell you how sick of this streaky headcase I am."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"Are you nuts? What game were you at?"

Yes, but it doesn't impair my hearing. Sunday's game.

I was in a new section, which does make me somewhat unreliable. I'm typically in Right Field Terrace and was using the tickets of a friend in Stars and Stripes Club right behind home plate (sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet). There's naturally more people down there, so it's naturally louder.

BUT

There was definitely more standing, clapping, and chanting than I've heard at Nats games, even Olsen's beaut the other night.

Posted by: Section506 | May 10, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Livo comes out when Livo says he comes out. Riggleman is, if anything, maybe a little too deferential to the veterans. WADR, Dargramps, maybe you should consider cutting down on the ConspiracyAde...

*********
I wonder if Livan has an incentive laden contract and is that the reason Riggleman pulled him from the game yesterday(orders from up top)i mean he had the Marlins off balance for most of the game except for the Ramierez solo to RF, just hated to see him not get the win Sunday.
Posted by: dargregmag | May 10, 2010 1:15 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm sick of blathering idiots on the internet. i miss the days when there opinions were confined to bar-rooms or call-in talk radio shows that the same 40 people listened to, day-in and day-out.

Posted by: fischy | May 10, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

oops -- "their" opinions.

Posted by: fischy | May 10, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I was listening to and watching both w/e games, and at a few points in both, was impressed with the effort of what couldn't have been more than a few thousand to make some noise.
Several of us have been watching baseball on TV for fifty years or so--we can tell the difference between the loud guys underneath a mike, and a loud crowd. I mean, you're watching TV--you can see them texting, getting up mid-AB, paying attention, or not. You can tell if the crowd is into it, or not.

Insert a tendentious unresourced opinion on the nature of baseball fans and attendence here.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Not for nothing, but the folks who are arguing "Pyth winning percentage doesn't matter because of a few early-season blowouts" are missing the point. The whole point of the Pyth winning percentage is that it accounts for blowouts, close games, etc - it attempts to show you how "lucky" or "unlucky" a team is by virtue of WHEN runs have scored. The whole point of the pyth is to account for blowouts - if you lose big, but win close, that suggests you've been a little lucky. The 2005 team is the best example of this.

On July 3, they were 50-31, largely on the strength of having been 22-7 in one-run games to that point. However, most teams, most years can't sustain that kind of thing - that's the beauty of baseball - and they came crashing back with an 8-24 record in one run games in the second half to finish 30-31 overall, or just under .500 in one-run games. On that same July 3 date, they were a .617 winning percentage, when Pythagoras said they should have been .503. The old greek dude bit back hard in the second half, when they won at a .383 clip, when they should have won at a .449 clip, according to Pythagoras. The luck ran out, the clutch hits didn't come, the bullpen blew a few leads, the starters ran out of gas, and on the whole, the team ended up 81-81, just a few games north of what ol' Pythagoras would have predicted.

Bottom line: You are what you are. You are what you are when you eke out a 1-run win and you are what you are when Marquis gets blown out 10-0. If the Nats really are as good as they look now, we should see Pythagoras come more into line with their record - which means they should blow some people out. Right now, the Nats are 7-3 in one-run games, and 2-6 in runs decided by 5+ runs. If this is sustainable this year, those two numbers (but especially the blowout number) need to turn around. 100+ years of baseball history tells us that one-run games are going to be around .500 – to be long term successful, you need to score more and win big. Winning close and losing big is not a recipe for long term winning, as the poor 2005 team found out.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | May 10, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

You realize there's about forty regulars in here, don't you, fishy? ;-)
************
I'm sick of blathering idiots on the internet. i miss the days when there opinions were confined to bar-rooms or call-in talk radio shows that the same 40 people listened to, day-in and day-out.

Posted by: fischy | May 10, 2010 2:21 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Yes, 295, but Pythagorean W/L depends on a decent sample size. This isn't a significant sample yet.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to see a RF in the mold of a Jason Werth but I have to admit that defensively - Maxwell, Bernadina, and Willie Harris have all made great defensive plays that allowed the Nats to stay in a game early - and win it in the late innings because the game was still close. Although all of them are hitting probably under .240, they seem to come up with a clutch hit at good times. I'm not sure who's available but one thing I do look forward to before each game is seeing which of those guys will be in RF. Now it's down to Wille and Bernadina with Maxwell back at Syracuse but both can field and add speed that puts the defense a little bit on edge, so I'm pretty content with the current RF situation.

Posted by: AsstGM | May 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Also (and this may be implicit in your argument), some teams are better than others, and the Nats are, according to most, playing against the better teams disproportionately so far, with the weaker ones to come.
Which is probably one reason sample size needs to be at least one season, come to think of it.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"[The 3-man RF platoon] have all made great defensive plays that allowed the Nats to stay in a game early - and win it in the late innings because the game was still close."

Was it Earl Weaver who used to say, if you play for one run, that's what you'll get: one run. The strategy line here seems to be, they can't afford to keep playing one-run games, and the way out of that is to score more runs. If they had more than enough good relievers, it would be different, but they don't, and those aren't that easy to get.
If Dunn would swing the bat more, he'd strike out a lot more, walk a lot less, and get more extra-base hits, hopefully enough to more than make up for the difference. That's where a big home-run hitting guy in right comes in--same concept.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The similarities to 2005 are so striking, even the player quotes are the same. Unfortunately I can't search the Post site earlier than 2009, but I distinctly remember quotes like "every day someone else steps up," etc.

It cannot continue. The key difference is that was a light hitting team for which no help was on the way.

This team has three issues, two of which have help on the way and the third MAY resolve itself. The two for which help is on the way are middle relief and starting pitching. The third is the run production, which has declined from earlier in the season and suffers from neither Maxwell nor Bernadina figuring things out at the plate. But if Dunn and Zimmerman can get hot, it may be possible to stay above .500 with subpar offensive performance from RF if in exchange you get above average fielding there (though it is less likely they would be able to actually contend).

Of course, in 2005 we though the offense would improve when Nick Johnson and Jose Vidro returned to the lineup, but it never really happened, and the team went into a tailspin. Somehow, I don't see that tailspin happening this year, though a .500 finish -- like the one the 2005 team accomplished -- would still be something of an achievement even though our expectations have now been raised higher.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 10, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

... because the stats people tell us (jump in anytime here, stats people) that a walk is worth about .25 runs (IIRC), but a home run is worth more than one, because sometimes there are people on base. One home run is better than four walks.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

2005/2010
I dunno, I'm really not feeling it. Yeah, some things are the same (the clichés are *always* the same), but mediocre teams tend to look similar. A little luck, some what-if, a few guys playing over their heads for a while ...
Plus, all the intervening history, the lousy years that the 2005 team sort of brought down with them, but didn't hang around their necks in the media, the way it seems to do this year.
That was a honeymoon first half, too, and we don't have that, either. Or bouncing stands. Did I mention I miss the bouncing?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 10, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if part of the reason for the one-run games is the lack of home runs with men on base. Last week, I think they had one HR with a man on (Willie Harris's) - the rest were solo shots. Is that a statistical oddity that can also be expected to revert to the mean?

Earl Weaver's formula for winning comes to mind - solid pitching and three-run homers.

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 10, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

The biggest difference between 2005 and now. Not having MLB own the team. The Lerners (hopefully) will give Rizzo the opportunity to add players if the Nats are still in it in when July comes.

Posted by: templetontherat1978 | May 10, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The biggest difference between 2005 and now. Not having MLB own the team. The Lerners (hopefully) will give Rizzo the opportunity to add players if the Nats are still in it in when July comes.

Posted by: templetontherat1978 | May 10, 2010 3:42 PM

Not to mention a farm system that can actually provide assistance when needed (see Chico, Matt, 5/8/10)

Posted by: RPrecupjr | May 10, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Whew--ladies & gents that was certainly an eye full. Can't touch all the bases but a few. FORGET 2005, there is NO comparison,MLB owned the team,no farm help,we aren't "waiting for hitting to arrive" it's here,simply hasn't hit it's stride yet. Pitching -- please. If this team falls off it's because it is what it is--young,growing and trying to answer questions. Prior to the start of this season you would hear none of these types of comments,it was all dark clouds-gloom and doom. Riggs was a horrible manager,RF was a mess(now it just isn't GOOD enough) and our pitching was a joke. Well pitching is not a worry,sure there is room for improvement but please, take out the BOMB games and look at the stats then. Marquis gets healthy, pitches well a few times and has enormous trade value, which will be good because judging by the soon to be had backlog of quality starters he can be the guy to move. Bernadina just came back up,give him a chance he was hitting over 300 @ AAA, is a good to solid fielder and like the rest of the team young.Maxwell is still in the wings. One comment I will respond to directly, concerning Pudge being called a journeyman,maybe there is a hint of backhandedness or maybe it is simply ignorance. But relating Pudge to a journeyman is like pointing to the fact that Babe Ruth was traded, makes no sense and isn't an accurate analogy of anything to do with their careers. The abundance of minor league pitching will bring us position players in deadline trades with desperate teams all to our good fortune. This team is coming along much faster than anticipated,it is built to last and has plenty in the tank. As a boy I cried when the Senators left town, never thought I'd see a team in DC,the countless years of padre's,Giants,Pilots swerves killed all hope. Now I am gone and it kills me that I can't take my boy to see a Nats game as my Dad did I,but frankly the drive's a little tough(SC to DC isn't easy on a 50 year old's back). Hopefully one day we can make a family trip back home and tie in a Nats game, I wear my Nats hat with pride every weekend and soon I have no doubt, I will be wearing that same cap in the fall, watching playoff games on National TV and telling my kids about Frank Howard,when Adam Dunn is up to bat. Maybe someday I can tell them about Walter Johnson, while comparing him to Steven Strasburg. Enjoy what you have and as they say just ROOT,ROOT,ROOT for the home team. Go Nats, maybe the flavor of the month now,but soon to be the new dynasty. 2 out of 3 with the Mets would be huge. GO GO GO

Posted by: mfowler1 | May 10, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

No, the SP has been terrible and we won't keep winning these games unless we upgrade our pitching talent across the board.

We need better SP badly

Posted by: Bious | May 10, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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