Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A demoralizing meltdown

Associated Press photo
Henry Rodriguez served up the game-winning homer to Rod Barajas.
PITTSBURGH -- Henry Rodriguez's "stuff" -- his triple-digit fastball and knee-buckling slider -- is as good as any repertoire in baseball.

"Stuff," though doesn't always translate into success. Especially when it comes to protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning. As much as everyone would like to believe pitching is pitching, no matter the situation, decades of evidence have suggested there are some relievers who simply can't handle the pressure of closing a big-league game.

Whether Rodriguez falls into that category remains to be seen. He's been handed the ball in a save situation in the ninth inning only 10 times in his career, successfully preserving the win on eight occasions. That's not enough of a sample size to draw any conclusive resolutions.

This much we do know: Rodriguez is an all-or-nothing reliever. When he's on, he's as good as anyone in the game. When he's off, hide the women and children.

Better yet, hide everyone, because it would have been darn near impossible for anyone with a rooting interest in the Nationals to watch Rodriguez's ninth-inning meltdown Tuesday night, resulting in a soul-crushing, 5-4 loss to the Pirates.

"Tough loss," said Adam LaRoche, who for about five minutes figured to be the hero of an uplifting victory. "Tough loss, man."

Rodriguez's second blown save in his last three opportunities was a product of two things: 1) His inability to throw a slider the full 60 feet, 6 inches, and 2) His subsequent need to rely on a fastball with the game on the line and everyone inside PNC Park knowing it.

The trouble began with one out in the ninth, when Alex Presley singled to left-center. Even so, Rodriguez jumped ahead of Yamaico Navarro 0-2 and needed just one more pitch to record the second out of the inning. Instead, he bounced an 84 mph slider in the dirt, and catcher Wilson Ramos was unable to keep the ball in front of him. Presley advanced to second on the wild pitch.

"He was in 0-2 counts, had to throw something in the ground and tried to get the hitters to swing at a bad pitch," Ramos said. "But, you know, it's hard to block those pitches. Sometimes you try to block the ball, and sometimes it hits off whatever side of my body and you run to the other side."

The count now 1-2, Ramos again called for a slider. And Rodriguez again bounced it in the dirt, the ball nearly skipping all the way into the Pittsburgh dugout. Presley took third base on Rodriguez's major-league-leading sixth wild pitch (five of them having come in his two blown saves).

"He tried to be too perfect," backup catcher Jesus Flores said, interpreting for Rodriguez. "He missed the spot and he tried too hard, but he just missed the location where he wanted to."

Rodriguez did rebound to strike out Navarro on a 99 mph fastball at the letter, but he still needed one more out to secure the win. The problem: With the tying run now at third, another slider in the dirt would spell disaster. So Rodriguez knew he had to start off Pittsburgh's Rod Barajas with a fastball.

"After seeing those two breaking balls in the dirt, chances were he wasn't going to throw that again," said Barajas, who stepped to the plate with a .127 batting average and zero home runs. "I'm a fastball hitter, and I wasn't going to let one go by."

He sure didn't. Though Rodriguez's first pitch was up and in, it registered a mere 96 mph, down a few ticks from every other fastball he threw in the inning. And Barajas destroyed it, launching the ball into the left-field bleachers for a walk-off, two-run homer.

"Definitely he was looking for the fastball," Rodriguez said through Flores.

"He's been so good with both pitches, there's no sense in not using one," said manager Davey Johnson, who added he'll stick with Rodriguez as his closer. "That's just part of maturing into a quality closer. Probably trying to make both pitches too good, trying to throw them too hard instead of just locating with something on it. He'll learn from that."

The evening's storyline had been set up perfectly, with LaRoche delivering a two-run homer off Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan in the top of the ninth to give the Nationals a 4-3 lead. LaRoche's blast -- the 1,000th home run in Nationals history -- capped a fantastic return from a sore oblique for the veteran first baseman, who went 2-for-3 with a single and a walk to go along with the homer.

In the end, though, the LaRoche home run was an afterthought as the Nationals lost yet another nip-and-tuck game on the road. They're now 8-0 in one-run games at home, 1-6 in one-run games away from Nationals Park.

And those one-run losses sting even more when they come about via a walk-off homer against a young reliever pressed into closing duties after two guys ahead of him on the depth chart succumbed to injury.

"I feel terrible for Henry," LaRoche said. "He wants to win as badly as anybody. Being able to throw 100 and having the guy run into it, it's frustrating."

107 comments:

NatsLady said...

LaRoche is a pro. Best comment I've seen in a LONG time. Stay healthy, man, stay healthy.

NatsLady said...

P.S., thanks for this report, Mark. Us peeps who work nights and didn't see the game really appreciate it.

Unknown said...

Between the Caps imploding on Monday night, and the Nats imploding on Tuesday night, I'm depressed. Pass the tequila and Maalox, please!

Michael Dempsey said...

We miss you Drew Storen. HRod's performance tonight was clown like.

Gonat said...

He sure didn't. Though Rodriguez's first pitch was up and in, it registered a mere 96 mph, down a few ticks from every other fastball he threw in the inning. And Barajas destroyed it, launching the ball into the left-field bleachers for a walk-off, two-run homer.
___________________________________________

I saw the 95.7 registered on the MLB radar gun and thought it was wrong.

Just a shame.

Unknown said...

Come on everyone, cheer up! I believe the best team lost tonight, so the Nats should take the next two from the "Buckos!" Give me an "N", give me an "A", give me a "T", give me an "S", NATS!!!!

Clip&Store said...

2 things:

1) I really, really miss Storen more than ever now
2) LaRoche has been such a professional ever since the Prince Fielder saga. If there is a way to keep him enxt year (i know this is looking way far ahead) i definitely think we should.

kc21 said...

Trade a pitching prospect + John Lannan (or Espino-hit) for Ichiro Suzuki. He'd be a great fit. Could bat leadoff, teach Desmond how to do it. He's still a great RF, allowing Harper to learn CF where I think he'll ultimately end up. He's a free agent next year, so there won't be a problem with renting him for 1 year. I think he'd jump at the chance to come to a 1st place team and win one at 38.

peric said...

Trade a pitching prospect + John Lannan (or Espino-hit) for Ichiro Suzuki. He'd be a great fit. Could bat leadoff, teach Desmond how to do it.

More nine year old fantasy baseball ... uhhm NO. And actually he and Michael Morse are very good friends.

BUT Rizzo says it over-and-over-and-over-again but the silly fans never listen ... pin heads and pencil head unite!

Rizzo isn't going to waste one valuable prospect or player on an asset unless that player can help this club now and in the foreseeable future. See Upton, BJ, Borjous, Peter. NO 1 year rentals from his perspective his job isn't complete and he is still under orders to develop or die.

Signing Suzuki would be against that philosophy and really silly. STOP.

NatsFam said...

KC21, I think you must be smoking that stuff that Obama's team is shutting off access to... There's no way Seattle's GM would ever go for Lannan + Pitching prospect for one of the best draws in Seattle sports. The most likely potential trade right now would be Lannan+someone for Bourjos (Angels CF). Bourjos is fast and with the arrival of Mike Trout, expendable. He's also young and fits Rizzo's scheme. As much as I love Lannan the man, and Bernadina, it would not surprise me to see them both go west for Bourjos, who has the upside to become a long time fixture.

peric said...

They can't always rely on Storen. As it is one can tell that Riggleman had overused both he and Clippard. Guess Davey isn't interested in having another Cordero / Chief-like break down on his watch. Good for him.

The bullpen is an ensemble in Davey's eyes just like the lineup and the bench. They've got to cover for each other and work together. Having just 2 relievers pitch constantly is a recipe for trouble.

peric said...

Looks like Wang didn't pitch one of the games of the double header for Syracuse. Any word on what happened Mark?

Scott from Burke said...

http://www.federalbaseball.com/2012/5/8/3008775/zach-duke-resurgent-in-syracuse-growing-gluttony-of-starting-pitching

I loved zach duke with the pirates..would love to see him up here

peric said...

I loved zach duke with the pirates..would love to see him up here

Behind Maya, Lannan and if they add anyone to the 40-man roster its going to be Rosenbaum who is rule 5 eligible this coming rule 5 draft. After that would be Duke.

NatsLady said...

peric, he wasn't supposed to, was he? According the Chiefs' PR he is scheduled for today.

Wang to pitch Wednesday

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120507&content_id=30648268&vkey=pr_t552&fext=.jsp&sid=t552

baseballswami said...

I am really surprised that Burnett has not been given any games to close. He started last year closing before drew grabbed the job. He has the mentality. Seems underused to me. In davey's doghouse for some reason?

NatsJack in Florida said...

NatsLady. If today is Wednesday, Wang's pitching as scheduled.

rabbit34 said...

Yes, NATS LADY, LaRoche had a nice, pointed, comment. Hopefully Davey Johnson sees what we all see, and acts on what is happening. There will be more games like this, but yeah, tough loss.

NatsNut said...

It's true, when Henry is on, he's ON and you should see the sunshine and light beaming from the commenters on this blog when he is. But boy do they forget when he's off.

alexva said...

Tough loss but hardly a meltdown, if every 95MPH fastball got hit out just because the batter was looking for it there'd be a lot of double digit scores.

Henry's doing fine but he won't be perfect, 8/10 in save chances, if that's 9/10 in the next month than we'll have weathered the loss of Storen just fine.

FS=Faraz Shaikh said...

baseballswami, I am surprised how less Burnett is used this season. He barely has 8 innings. The only guys with less innings than him are Ligde (been injured) and Perry (just promoted). I think he deserves more outings, not just ninth inning.

Steady Eddie said...

Clip &Store -- team has an option on LaRoche, I think for $13 million, for next year. If he stays reasonably healthy, worth every penny. He's our Beast for the first half of this season.

alexva said...

I'll correct my post to 6/8...7/8 and stand by my point.

The Great Unwashed said...

More frustrating to me than the walkoff loss is having to watch Espinosa strike out over and over while Lombardozzi has been relegated to the bench. This is one of the few times where there's another option ready to go. Whatever happened to riding the hot hand?

UnkyD said...

LaRoche-$10 million for '13... SOLD!!!

UnkyD said...

Espinosa indicated last week that he understands he may need to visit Syracuse, so I don't think he'll cry himself to sleep if it comes to pass... Desi's struggles came over a period when we didn't have an obvious option, on the bench...not so with Espi... It would seem to me that the coaches could take strategies with his approach, down there (where the Ws and Ls don't mean as much) that would be impractical, up here (for instance, watch the first 3 pitches, a couple of ABs each game, just to see how they track...). Carlos Rivera is on the 40 man... If he has an option , bring him up for a few weeks, if DeRosa's not ready to go. Espy seems to need some intensive remedial instruction.

I'm patient, re: Henry.... Sometimes you don't have your stuff... He'll learn how to be crafty....

UnkyD said...

The preceding message brought to you by the Butt from a Hole in the Ground Society.....

natsfan1a said...

Spam alert.

In other news, agreed re. contributions of LaRoche. How great is it to have him back? Also agree re. on-or-off states of H-Rod. Fun to watch in first case, not so much in the second. Sounds like he's faced the music with reporters after his "off" games, so good for him. I'm with LaRoche, I feel for the guy.

On another note, very nice text that FP read from Werth early in the game - thanked Nats fans, teammates, and people around baseball for their good vibes and get-well-soons and vowed to do everything in his power to heal fast and get back a.s.a.p. My card is going out today. I think it may include a few Philly-related thoughts. :-)

baseballswami said...

Trying to stay positive. Zim and LaRoche back and not missing a beat. I hope they are both feeling good today. Phils lost to the Mets, again. ( negative-- Atlanta won and we are now tied). Another positive - Hanrahan did blow a save against us and Pittsburgh's walk off win was completely over shadowed by Josh Hamilton. Reminder to posters from yesterday who were convinced we would blow out the Bucs - on any given day there are no easy teams or easy wins. Especially for our team. Ryan Dempster for the cubs has worse luck than JZim -- 5 starts - stellar era - zero wins. Hoping JZim gets out of that club very soon. I hope last night was a sign that Ramos's bat is coming alive. As for his blocking -- HRod throws 100 and misses by miles. Even Pudge couldn't have blocked some of those pitches.

Gonat said...

Clip&Store said...
2 things:

1) I really, really miss Storen more than ever now
2) LaRoche has been such a professional ever since the Prince Fielder saga. If there is a way to keep him enxt year (i know this is looking way far ahead) i definitely think we should.

May 09, 2012 12:37 AM
_____________________________

I forgot all about the off-season drama and how well LaRoche took it plus he was killed by the Anon's on this site and others all off-season.

Here's the thing, the Nats have an option on him.

Jimmy said...

This is a good ball club, with the makings of a really good to great one down the road, but we are not quite there yet. I think management and the front office knows this isn't our year - nor do they think it should be.

We'll have a good year, but there will be plenty of growing pains like last night. And then come September our Ace gets shut down.

This team is built for 2013. We can either rejoice that we are *this* close (and enjoy watching a reliably .500-plus ballclub), or we can beat ourselves over the head in frustration all season long. I'm choosing the former.

natsfan1a said...

swami, on the plus side: at 18-11 our win-loss percentage is .621, at 19-12 Atlanta's is .613.

MicheleS said...

Well that was a kick in the shins last night. Henry (and to some extent Ramos) just pooped all over the field in the 9th. Agree that Sean needs to see some time closing.

Good for ALR and RZ. Shaking off the rust pretty quickly. Espi should NOT be batting 5th and definitely needs a mental break.

Ejax had a pretty good night - not great- but good.

Now Det needs to have a good night and the Bats need to keep it coming.

A DC Wonk said...

alexva said...

Tough loss but hardly a meltdown


Exactly. I actually didn't feel bad about the loss very much. In particular, because our weak hitting team came back, and, specifically, as swami noted:

Trying to stay positive. Zim and LaRoche back and not missing a beat.

Now _that's_ a good sign. If they are both hitting, we'll be fine -- it's not often that Clip _and_ HRod will let up runs in consecutive innings.

(And, btw, why is the dumping all on HRod? Has anybody noticed that Clip has an ERA of 4.15, and his WHIP is a miserable 1.462? He's given up runs in 4 of 13 appearances -- HRod has given up runs in 4 of 14 appearances).

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Espi in the 5 hole I thought was the biggest issue last night.

Henry deserved another chance and blew it. Stammen is my pick going forward.

mr baseball said...

We have the perfect closer in Stammen! Why don't we put him in that role? He throws strikes and has a good breaking ball. Also, when is someone going to suggest to Espinosa to try choking up on the bat and just make contact. Look at Hunter Pence, that's what he does and he is successful. That's better than striking out 2-3 times a game.

A DC Wonk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A DC Wonk said...

Yep -- Espi now tied for 2d in the league (only behind Dunn) for most K's. 37. That's a lot at this point in the season.

A DC Wonk said...

Stats rundown, for the heckuva it:

Nats are:

14th in Runs.
14th in BA and SLG, but 8th in OBP.
13th in HR's.

For pitching:

3rd in K's
4th best in BB's
1st in: (fewest) Runs, ERA, HR, Hits, WHIP

NatsLady said...

Stammen is a bulldog, but I disagree with making him the closer for these reasons:

- He can go more than one inning (Henry can't, it's been tried);
- He can come in with men on base and get the side out (Henry has done it, but not reliably, and with his walks/WP's he has all he can do to handle his own men on base).
- Henry is good, he will get better, as noted above.

You may think Stammen is better right now than Henry, but you don't necessarily use the best reliever as your closer. We had this discussion many times about Clippard.

A DC Wonk said...

... and surprising stats of the day:

Nats as a team have received the third highest number of intentional BB's, and second fewest hit-into-DP's.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I'm not ambivalent about Rodriguez. I won't be truly at ease until he's shipped to San Diego or some similar place of exile. He's been in the majors for nearly three years and he still can't make his head process what needs to be done and get his arm to do it. I am, however, resigned to him until Storen comes back -- healthy -- because no one else in the bullpen is close to having closer stuff. We just need to be prepared to absorb another half-dozen blown saves between now and the All-Star break -- and hopefully none after that.

Clippard has earned our indulgence (and didn't have a great deal of help). Rodriguez hasn't, and blew a relatively easy save pitching against midgets.

A DC Wonk said...

You may think Stammen is better right now than Henry, but you don't necessarily use the best reliever as your closer. We had this discussion many times about Clippard.

Great point. And for those that missed that discussion and are promoting Stammen, we can summarize it like this:

If you like Stammen so much, and you had to choose, would you rather have him pitch a clean 9th, or coming in with bases loaded and nobody out?

Grandstander said...

... and not surprising stats of the day:

Nats as a team have 5 blown saves this year. Drew Storen had 5 blown saves all of last year.

JamesFan said...

We can't win all these 1 run games, especially on the road. I love Henry and think he will be fine. I'm good with using what we have in left until Morse is back. This is a ast chance for Bernie and Nady and a first chance for Moore.

To me, the biggest player issue we have is Danny. DJ cannot let this go on forever because it is getting worse, not better. These strikeouts are killing us in a weak offense anyway. In another week or so, they have to look at sending him down to straighten this out elsewhere.

A DC Wonk said...

He's been in the majors for nearly three years and he still can't make his head process what needs to be done and get his arm to do it.

It's not how many years in the majors -- for a power pitcher like him, it's how old he is.

Clip is 27 -- when he was 25, he had a WHIP of 1.209, and and ERA of over 3 -- and a had ton of "blown-save-gets-the-wins". In fact, he ended up with an 11-8 record (ridiculous for a relief pitcher) and exactly 1 save.

Rodriguez hasn't, and blew a relatively easy save pitching against midgets.

... on a pitch on the inside corner, that was 10 feet away from being a foul ball.

Youngster. Set-up man pressed into closer role. Work in progress. Growing pains. Etc.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Wonk, check out Adam Dunn's OPS, HRs, and RBIs and then let's discuss Ks in comparison to Espinosa.

Lombo should be the starting 2nd baseman, no doubt in my mind.

My joke last week was how EJax hits better than Nady, better than Espi too.

Exposremains said...

When you read the comments of DJ saying I'm gonna stick with this guy or Rizzo we'll wait for someone to step up, it's clear that they are shouting for 2013-14. They want to see which players can be part of a team that wins the WS not just get to the playoff and then lose in the 1st round.

If they make it this year, its a bonus but I don't think that's what they're trying to do. They compare themselves to the 84 Mets not 86.

NatsNut said...

No disrespect, but Pudge is no longer on the team. Just sayin...

A DC Wonk said...
... and surprising stats of the day:

Nats as a team have ... second fewest hit-into-DP's.

Steady Eddie said...

NatsLady -- exactly right on Stammen, plus the fact that Clip has been a little unsteady at times this year, which makes a high leverage guy like Stammen all the more critical to have in that fireman role.

The problem has been with HRod on the road, which is why Burnett should be the closer on road trips (yeah, I know, that's an oversimplification and not entirely tenable, but you get the point).

Maybe Davey should just can the closer role formally until Druuu gets back. The problem with "closer" is that it makes most managers determined not to take him out even if he clearly lacks his stuff on a given night -- and with HRod you can see unmistakably when he lacks his stuff. Remember that game where Davey pulled Stammen when he gave up a hit and a walk to the first two hitters he faced, and it was definitely the right move? He needs to be willing to do that with a lead or tie in the ninth.

Candide said...

You know, we wouldn't be having all this angst about closers if the lineup would just score six or seven runs once or twice a week.

A DC Wonk said...

When you read the comments of DJ saying I'm gonna stick with this guy or Rizzo we'll wait for someone to step up, it's clear that they are shouting for 2013-14.

I disagree. I think they are positioning themselves to see "what they got" going into a pennant race in Sept. Better to find out whether Espi or Bernie or HRod can get it together _now_, than to find that out in Sept.

(Or, better to find that out _now_, before the July 31 trading deadline!)

They compare themselves to the 84 Mets not 86.

Good point! I agree!

But in 1984, only two teams (in each league) went to post-season. The 1984 Mets won 90 games (the third most in the NL). Ninety wins this year almost certain to be more than enough to get into the playoffs.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Correct. The adjustments will come at the trading deadline, except for Espinosa. They ate killing this kid by a thousand paper cuts and it can't continue.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Correct. The adjustments will come at the trading deadline, except for Espinosa. They ate killing this kid by a thousand paper cuts and it can't continue.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Correct. The adjustments will come at the trading deadline, except for Espinosa. They ate killing this kid by a thousand paper cuts and it can't continue.

feelanau said...

I like Espinosa as much as the next fan, but this is beyond ridiculous. How can we continue to give up 4 outs every game? Lombo proved himself in Zimmerman's absence. He's earned the spot at 2nd. Danny should be sent down to work on whatever it is that needs to be worked on. It might even be a relief for him. I understand Davy's loyalty and not wanting to undermine a player's confidence, but this is a player with a very short history. It's not like he's played for 5 years and so you know it's just a slump? What is the basis for Davy's confidence? A good 2011 first half doesn't warrant the deference Danny is being shown. He's got to go.

natsfan1a said...

So, I'm putting together a "get well" note for Jayson Werth. Along the lines of yesterday's etiquette question from NatsNut, I was thinking of enclosing a defaced Phanatic mascot card. Too much?

natsfan1a said...

Yeah, probably too creepy. I think I'll send it without. :-)

CBinDC said...

Confidence in Danny would be to send him to AAA to work out of this and then bring him back because right now he is not doing well working on this here. He makes me tense because I want him to break out and it just goes badly. This has to be a mind problem unless he has some hidden injury they have not discovered yet. Remember LaRoche last year when he hit .176 everything else looked ok and then bam the Nationals doctors discovered his head had been ripped off.

jeffwx said...

How do you deface the Phanatic.
What a ridiculous mascot

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

First off, Davey never formally named Henry the closer. He had Lidge and Henry in the role until Lidge was injured and the team's closer is Storen (on DL).

2nd observation was the pitch that Barajas hit out was a mistake pitch. Pitch track showed a center cut fastball on the inner part of the plate which is perfect for a pull hitter (if you can catch the heat). Issue is, the pitch wasn't exactly a heater. The fastball was recorded at 95.7 mph. Henry was throwing 98s and 99s and his changeup is around 90 to 91. This pitch MPH was slightly above middle of the range and called a fastball. One of the slowest I have seen Henry throw.

Need some of the math people for help. If it was his changeup it certainly goes foul. If it was his regular fastball, it seems that it is either a swing & miss or cues it off the end of his bat. The speed variable when Barajas started his swing only pulled it that much because the change of speed.

jeffwx said...

from mlb trade rumors:

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he's hoping players like Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina will step up during Jayson Werth's absence so he doesn't have to make a trade (Twitter link). Werth will miss about three months with a broken left wrist.

I suspect Rizzo is on the phone already

Steady Eddie said...

Please, Davey!

1 Lombardozzi, 2B
2 Harper, RF
3 RZim, 3B
4 LaRoche, 1B
5 Desmond, SS
6 Ankiel, CF
7 Ramos/Flores, C
8 Tracy, LF (ASAP when it becomes clear that Shark is not putting it together, and Nady is not getting it back)

I really don't think Desmond is going to mind the compliment of being put at #5, especially when he's being told to "just be yourself" and that means an aggressive hitter who's not trying to maximize OBP, which Lombo can and a leadoff should.

Harp really can benefit from the protection of hitting in front of RZim, and the team needs RZim and ALR to get the extra ABs from hitting 3 & 4. With our good hitting rotation (with Gio getting a little higher BAPIP, they'll all be over .200!) and the reasonable potential for the bottom of the order to get on base, Harp should get plenty of chances to drive people in hitting second.

Exposremains said...

Other evidence that they are shouting for 13-14, the Strasburg shut down.

blovy8 said...

I would stick with the guy who can throw 100 even if he walks a guy per inning. This stuff happens. Even though Barajas got one he could handle, I still imagine Henry's the toughest guy in the bullpen to face. If he's wild, it's scary, if he's got control, it's tough to hit it even if you just guess fastball. It's not like Lidge or Clippard haven't had their meltdowns in that role, and I don't really think this instance deserves a complete demotion. I agree that Burnett might be a better closer right now, but he's still mostly matching up against lefties and it could be they're still worried about his back since they aren't using him much. Clippard should be still be used in the high leverage spots earlier in the game that are more important. Stammen has been pretty valuable where he is, and is great at coming in with men on base. Henry, not so much.

jeffwx said...

Evidence against...Nats sign 33 year old Mike Gonzalas

Steady Eddie said...

Expos, now you're getting silly. That was fully laid out based on pretty indisputable medical grounds. And it was the reason they picked up EJax in addition to Gio.

It's essentially proven that you need only three reliable starters in the postseason. Along with JZimm and Gio, they figured to find at least one from among EJax, Det, and Wang over the course of the season, and go with that hot hand. That might also be part of the thinking about putting Det in the BP when Wang gets back (which from the standpoint of how great Det is pitching I would not want to see), to keep him fresher for the postseason given that he's never started for a full season in the Show.

jeffwx said...

More quiet acts of desparation from so many teams that have so few pitchers. Nats are truely blessed:

Brad Penny has offers from MLB teams to start or pitch out of the bullpen, Olney reports. Penny, who recently became a free agent, expects to choose a team soon. He had been dealing with shoulder issues while under contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Exposremains said...

Believe me, I would like to think that they are all in for 2012 but I have my doubts. I do think that this team as a whole lacks confidence. I think DJ is trying to help guys like Espinosa, Desmond, Rodriguez even Werth work on that. When it comes to performing at a high level, confidence, performing under pressure is probably at least 50% of the equation.

CBinDC said...

What the best solution is to the Bad Henry problem is hard to define. But that this into account Henry has blown up twice now in one run save with two outs both times throwing balls in the dirt for wild pitches and both times in away games. I felt last night Davy should have pulled Henry after the second wild pitch. Go with who? Well Sean has not pitched for a while and has done well against right hand batters. But this is not a "it just happens" with Henry.

Tcostant said...

Word on the street is Brad Penny faked an injury because he has the offer frrom Japan in his back pocket. Ethics are not his thing...

phil dunton said...

Rizzo and Johnson have to arrive at the following conclusions and take appropriate action. Henry Rodriguez is not a reliable relief pitcher. Tyler Clippard is struggling. Xavier Nady is washed up. Mark Derosa is washed up. Epinosa can't hit major league piching and needs to go to Syracuse. Bernadina will never hit major league pitching an should be released. Last but not least, they need to show Rick Eckstein the exit door.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

feelanau said...
I like Espinosa as much as the next fan, but this is beyond ridiculous. How can we continue to give up 4 outs every game? Lombo proved himself in Zimmerman's absence. He's earned the spot at 2nd. Danny should be sent down to work on whatever it is that needs to be worked on. It might even be a relief for him. I understand Davy's loyalty and not wanting to undermine a player's confidence, but this is a player with a very short history. It's not like he's played for 5 years and so you know it's just a slump? What is the basis for Davy's confidence? A good 2011 first half doesn't warrant the deference Danny is being shown. He's got to go.

May 09, 2012 9:51 AM


I was listening to Charlie & Dave on the radio call. 1st at-bat, 3 slow curves out of the zone for swing & miss.

You could just hear them shaking their heads.

While I know Espi's mechanics are off, last night convinced me he isn't seeing the ball. Its as bad as I have seen a Major League position player.

Theophilus T. S. said...

People are excusing Rodriguez because Barajas hit a "mistake" pitch. That's the whole point. Barajas doesn't have a hit in his career that wasn't a mistake pitch. Batters like him should be put down on three well-placed pitches. There is no excuse for being beaten by a bum like that. How many more guys batting .127 is Rodriguez going to lose games to? Possibly we should have him throw batting practice to get Nady out of his slump?

Theophilus T. S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A DC Wonk said...

Believe me, I would like to think that they are all in for 2012 but I have my doubts....

No, the Nats aren't stupid. When you have a chance to win a ring, you go for it. You plan for next year when you don't think you have a realistic shot this year -- but the Nats have an _obvious_ realistic shot. They only need 86 or 87 wins, and then only three star pitchers to possibly carry the rest of the way.

My take: that they _were_ planning on 2013 and beyond, and when all the starters they picked up, plus the returning ones, started pitching lights-out fairly consistently, the FO realized 2012 can be "the year" also.

But even a team that is "in it to win it this year" -- you *still* need patience. It's still a marathon not a sprint. You never know what other teams are going to want to do in July. Some teams might be throwing the towel in, and are willing to trade a great player for a couple of prospects. Other teams will be getting rid of solid players who are in their walk year. And still yet other teams, who think they are "one piece away" will be ready to trade guys to get that one piece.

But all that happens in July, not May. The Nats need to find out:

(a) will Espi ever get it together?
(b) can we count on Ankiel in CF for 3 months?
(c) what will Morse be like when he comes back? (and how long will it take?)
(d) what will Storen be like when he comes back? (and how long will it take?)
(e) what will Werth be like when he comes back? (and how long will it take?)

Until *those* questions are answered, it doesn't make sense for the Nats to make a desperation move -- all the more so to make such a move in May.

I'm _sure_ we're "in it to win it" in 2012 -- but, even so, Rizzo & Johnson understand the need to be patient, to see exactly what we got for the second half.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Grammatically more correct: "How many more .127 hitters will Rodriguez allow to beat him?"

A DC Wonk said...

While I know Espi's mechanics are off, last night convinced me he isn't seeing the ball.

That's just what FP said during the same at bat. FP said: when a guys swings and misses at three straight pitches, he's not seeing the ball well, he's not picking up the rotation, etc.

MicheleS said...

SteveM. FP said the same thing about Espi. Swinging at 3 straight curve balls.. he is not seeing the ball.

Henry may not be able to handle the closer's role, but we are stuck with him until Drew comes back. We are going to have to expect that Good/Bad Henry at times. Barkeep keep the Bourbon and Maalox coming.

I don't agree with the Clipp comments, had a bad few innings, but he is making the adjustments and returning to form.

DeRo was raking in spring training. Not sure what is up with him, but have to think that strain was going on during the first part of the season. Nady...well ugh, that one is not worth mentioning. Can we get Chad Tracy back in the line up in the OF? Seriously, just have Ankiel run after anything that would be close like he did with Nady and we will be good.

I think Ankiel should be batting 5th, then Lombo, Ramos, LF of day. Everything else I would keep the same.

MicheleS said...

Wonk.. owe you a coke.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

phil dunton said...
Rizzo and Johnson have to arrive at the following conclusions and take appropriate action. Henry Rodriguez is not a reliable relief pitcher. Tyler Clippard is struggling. Xavier Nady is washed up. Mark Derosa is washed up. Epinosa can't hit major league piching and needs to go to Syracuse. Bernadina will never hit major league pitching an should be released. Last but not least, they need to show Rick Eckstein the exit door.

May 09, 2012 10:41 AM


Sort of harsh, but the truth hurts. Not willing to say DeRosa is toast just yet and the same with Bernadina. DeRosa was great in Sping Training and probably was trying to play through his injury. Bernadina has received no consistent playing time and is a good bench/role player. You still need bench/role players. Certainly his last chance to prove he is a starter. At least Davey batted him in the 8th spot.

For anyone who follows my comments, I didn't like Henry last year and said it against the tide of public opinion where people are impressed by 100mph heat. I will say it again, Henry is a thrower and not a pitcher. He generally has no clue where his ball will end up. Trying to convince me he is a closer, won't work. Closers are brought in generally to preserve a Win. 2 blown in 10 days now and both while NOT facing the heart of the order which is what makes it so much worse.

Look, I don't know if Stammen will be better but if you don't try an alternative, you will never know.

Yes, Clippard is struggling. Like I said a few weeks ago, he has to introduce a breaking pitch into his repetoire.

Espinosa, already said a few dozen times going back to Spring Training where many didn't agree with me.

Eckstein, I stuck up for him all last year because I know he is a smart guy and hard worker. Well, its not working. His batters aren't prepared for their roles. That's going to fall back on Management so either Davey or Eckstein has to take responsibility for the issues with offense.

mr baseball said...

I fine some of your comments so funny! How many games have some of you coached. I've been in baseball over 60 years and sometimes you have to coach out of the box.

Nats Lady, I bet if you were with the Yankees years ago, Mario Rivera would have never have become a closer. Remember he was John Wetteland's setup man before Wetteland jumped to Texas. Mario gets by with two pitches and Stamman could also until Storm gets back. The Nats have Mattheus, Gorzelanny, and Burnett who can go two innings or more. Try Rodriques, with Clippard as set-up men.

Some get the opportunity and others don't! And, they will always live wondering, WHAT IF!!

natsfan1a said...

Re. Burnett as closer, I like the guy, but he's had his own issues in that role and earned the ire of fans on this blog. Wasn't Sean something like 4 for 11 in save opportunities last year? Yeah, I know, small sample size. Kinda like with Henry. :-)

http://www.natsinsider.com/2011/04/game-23-mets-at-nats.html

natsfan1a said...

Disclaimer: posted before I read the two more recent posts and not directed at any one particular individual.

A DC Wonk said...

MicheleS said...

Wonk.. owe you a coke.


OK -- next time we're at the same game!

Scott from Burke said...

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he's hoping players like Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina will step up during Jayson Werth's absence so he doesn't have to make a trade (Twitter link). Werth will miss about three months with a broken left wrist.

How does a player 'step up'? They try harder and so do better than they have before because team is in a bind? Like they weren't trying before? Stupid. Players don't 'step up'...they play..the GM needs to 'step up'

A DC Wonk said...

For anyone who follows my comments, I didn't like Henry last year and said it against the tide of public opinion where people are impressed by 100mph heat. I will say it again, Henry is a thrower and not a pitcher. He generally has no clue where his ball will end up.

Funny how perceptions are different.

For one, I thought _I_ was in a minority last year -- of HRod defenders.

More importantly -- I think he *is* a pitcher, he just doesn't have consistent command of all of his pitches yet.

Anybody remember when he threw _fastballs_ for WP's last year? He doesn't do that anymore. Why? Because he _is_ a pitcher, and he's throwing his slider. Problem is, obviously, that he doesn't have command of his slider all the time.

Pitcher, thrower, star, chump . . . my main message has been consistent: it's too early to tell with him. And I'll also say: when his slider is working, he's just impossible to hit.

It's not everybody that can pitch in seven straight games in the 9th inning (actually, once in the 10th), one inning each, and come out with seven no-hit innings -- which he did in April. And in May he had three solid outings in three chances (two of them no-hit outings) until last night.

This is a guy you give a long leash to. Especially at his age.

JamesFan said...

Steady Eddie 10:06.
That's the lineup I want to see. It is a natural unless Lombo can't handle the leadoff situation. Unfortunately, I think we will have to lose a few more games and Espi have a few more 0-4s before DJ puts the team on the field in that configuration.

Marty said...

Well I think it's only fair that we start placing our guesses on the number of strikeouts Espinosa will have when Davey finally pulls him out of the lineup for a breather. I don't think it will happen till DeRosa is back, which is probably 3 weeks out?

I'm going with 55 Ks.

do1teach1 said...

Some big decisions, clearly, are coming. Time to time people on this blog will express the feeling that they want to win more than the players do.

I am satisfied that no GM in baseball is more focused on winning than Rizzo, no manager wants to win more than DJ, and no players want to win more than the Nationals. With that settled in my mind, I, like all of you, start to look at how their decisions reflect their dedication to winning.

It is hard to imagine we will see Espy at second for a couple of months. He must go down. I believe he will be the most relieved person in the world when they finally tell him.

The Nats should not have lost Jerry Hairston. Big, big mistake.

The Perry-for-Balester deal? Balester ERA 4.30, Perry 23.62. Small sample size I know, but did Perry really have more upside than Balester? No.

HRod is a basket case, this year's Daniel Cabrera.

Ramos, defensively, is the most hyped and over-rated player in Nats history. If Pudge were catching HRod, then HRod would have NO wild pitches this season.

In spring training we had three closers. Now we have none. Ankiel, Derosa, Nady, Bernie, Tracy...all pickover players who might do something once in a while, but never consistently.

Finally, starting pitching. They kept their chin up when the team overall was winning and they were getting no decisions, or losses. They will, repeat will, get demoralized as their shining starts increasingly turn to late-inning losses.

Management action is needed now.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

My observations on Lombo are he has been good in situations where the game isn't on the line. When he gets in the high stress situations, generally becomes more impatient. The sample size is small and the only way to get a better read is to get him more playing time.

I don't think he is ready to lead-off even though he looks like he would be a good lead-off hitter. Give it time.

1st step forward is inserting him into the lineup as the starting 2nd baseman and getting Danny some help which is unfortunately called Syracuse.

Desi SS
Lombo 2B
Harper RF
Zim 3B
LaRoche 1B

That's my 1 to 5 hitters. The problem is bunching your LH hitters together. Problem solved when Beast Mode comes back.

That leaves LF, CF, and Catcher to fill in. Do you move Ramos to the #6?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

do1teach1 said...

Finally, starting pitching. They kept their chin up when the team overall was winning and they were getting no decisions, or losses. They will, repeat will, get demoralized as their shining starts increasingly turn to late-inning losses.

Management action is needed now.

May 09, 2012 11:52 AM


I said this before myself about JZim. You could see it in his last 2 starts when the Nats failed to get runs in innings when they had 1st and 2nd with no outs.

1st signal to the pitchers (and long overdue) is to send Espinosa down and send Nady packing. Bring up 2 new players.

2nd signal is trying a new closer. Its either Burnett or Stammen. I would go with Stammen.

Steady Eddie said...

natsfan1a -- while I can see the arguments for and against Burnett as at least sharing closer duties, his record in the first half of last season isn't one of them. Mark and every other Nats writer reported that he changed his position on the rubber in mid or late July, and was back to his old reasonably reliable self from then on. The point was that by pitching from the left side of the rubber (facing the plate), his pitches came at batters from a sharper angle that made it that much harder for them to pick up.

And this is coming from a guy who yelled in agony from my seat down the right field line whenever Riggleman (and then Davey, especially in that early July 10-9 debacle against the Cubs, which came right after Burnett gave away a hard-fought, come from behind 2-2 tie in the 8th against the Bucs) called him in to throw gas on the fire. He's just not that anti-relief reliever any more.

Scott from Burke said...

I am satisfied that no GM in baseball is more focused on winning than Rizzo, no manager wants to win more than DJ, and no players want to win more than the Nationals.

on the good ship lollipop..look, they want to win..but so does EVERY OTHER TEAM..the yankees payroll is a billion dollars..you dont think they want to win? the angels gave albert pujols a bank vault...rizzo is fine (although he needs to act with some class...getting fined? again?) and i love davey but the desire to win is not going to push th enats one way or the other...executing will..stick to what you see on the field...rizzo calling cole hamels names wont help bernardina hit the curve ball

hiramhover said...

If Pudge were catching HRod, then HRod would have NO wild pitches this season.

Sounds nice, but it's wrong. Half of Henry's WPs last year came with a catcher other than Ramos, inc. 4 with Pudge behind the plate.

Ramos has not looked sharp behind the plate this year, but we can't put Henry's problems on him.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

hiramhover, Ramos is a top quality catcher. Still learning and getting better. The main thing is the starting pitchers love him.

The pitchers and catchers have to keep baserunners closer so they can cut down on stolen bases.

JD said...

Steve,

I think the issue with Espi is that there is no one ready to come up at all. I think that if the DeRosa wasn't out they would make that move and they still might because I don't see it getting better at all.

HRod is frustrating when he can't control his slider. I think he would have done better with a veteran catcher because Barajas can only hit fastballs and HRod should have stayed with the off speed stuff without trying to make it perfect; I think pudge might have got him through this game.

JD said...

Steve,

I think the issue with Espi is that there is no one ready to come up at all. I think that if the DeRosa wasn't out they would make that move and they still might because I don't see it getting better at all.

HRod is frustrating when he can't control his slider. I think he would have done better with a veteran catcher because Barajas can only hit fastballs and HRod should have stayed with the off speed stuff without trying to make it perfect; I think pudge might have got him through this game.

hiramhover said...

Ghost

I should have been clearer. I don't disagree re: game calling and his relation with the pitchers, but Ramos has not done a great job this season on SBs and plays at the plate. But we're only 5 weeks in and he clearly has a strong upside, so I'm not drawing grand conclusions.

My main pt was that Wilson is not to blame for Henry's problems.

natsfan1a said...

Yes, I also read those reports. The point is that some people were ready to give up on Burnett then, and some are ready to give up on H-Rod now.

Steady Eddie said...

natsfan1a -- while I can see the arguments for and against Burnett as at least sharing closer duties, his record in the first half of last season isn't one of them. Mark and every other Nats writer reported that he changed his position on the rubber in mid or late July, and was back to his old reasonably reliable self from then on. The point was that by pitching from the left side of the rubber (facing the plate), his pitches came at batters from a sharper angle that made it that much harder for them to pick up.

And this is coming from a guy who yelled in agony from my seat down the right field line whenever Riggleman (and then Davey, especially in that early July 10-9 debacle against the Cubs, which came right after Burnett gave away a hard-fought, come from behind 2-2 tie in the 8th against the Bucs) called him in to throw gas on the fire. He's just not that anti-relief reliever any more.
May 09, 2012 12:02 PM

That old-school, prestigious way of Scooter said...

If Burnett can move across the rubber, so can Rodriguez.

That old-school, prestigious way of Scooter said...

Or make some similar tweak, is the point here.

natsfan1a said...

Works for me, Scooter. :-)

Theophilus T. S. said...

To paraphrase John Thompson, Jr., "Everybody wants to win. Give me a player who hates to lose."

Should we say HRodriguez doesn't hate losing enough to learn how to pitch? Instead of just throwing?

At least Ryne Duren had an excuse -- he couldn't see home plate.

I don't know whether Rodriguez is an irredeemable lunkhead but they can't afford a half-dozen more losses to find out.

Don't want to upset the rational order of things that they have currently in the bullpen -- Stammen long, Mattheus 7, Clippard 8, Burnett LOOGY.

So maybe Jackson should close, a la Smoltz, when Wang comes back. He seems to be able to navigate one or two innings without peril, if not necessarily three or four.

Shedd said...

How do you say Nuke LaLoosh in Spanish?

Jimmy said...

Test

Mr Baseball said...

Test

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