Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sweep exposes Nats' lineup woes

Associated Press photo
Derek Jeter scores on Mark Teixeira's first-inning sacrifice fly.
That the Nationals could get swept by the Yankees over a frustrating week of baseball and still emerge holding a four-game lead in the NL East is a tribute to how far this organization has come.

That they could own baseball's fourth-best record in mid-June despite their two best offensive players from 2011 collectively hitting .225 with three homers, 26 RBI and a paltry .604 OPS is downright remarkable.

For much of the last 2 1/2 months, the Nationals have managed to win games in spite of that lack of production from the heart of their lineup, specifically Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. Eventually, though, manager Davey Johnson knew he was going to need to count on those big bats producing in big spots, and it finally happened this weekend.

In dropping three straight games to the Yankees -- including Sunday's 4-1 series finale -- the Nationals scored a total of six runs. The biggest culprits: Zimmerman and Morse, who went a combined 4-for-26 with one RBI.

How difficult is it to beat the beasts of the AL East with so little offense generated from those two?

"It makes it hard, unfortunately," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "Really, it's been the story of the year. We haven't had our whole lineup going yet and we're still in pretty good shape. All that comes back to our pitching. Which has been great. And I thought they were pretty good these three days. We just did nothing for them."

All things considered, the Nationals couldn't be disappointed with their pitching performance against a fearsome New York lineup. Their starters posted a 3.50 ERA in the series and gave their team a chance to win each of these three games.

But their lineup couldn't seize the opportunities, and the team as a whole paid the price for it.

"Offensively we're just coming up a little short," Johnson said. "Only thing that really concerns me: We've got to get Zim going. Need to get Zim in a happy place."

Zimmerman has been anything but happy during what has been a surprisingly frustrating 2 1/2 months on an individual level despite his team's overall success. The foundation of the Nationals' lineup through six previous lean years, he's become one of its biggest liabilities.

The low point may well have come Sunday during an 0-for-4 afternoon that saw Zimmerman see a total of only seven pitches from New York right-hander Ivan Nova. He swung and missed one of those pitches, fouled off one, took two called strikes and made outs on the remaining three.

The end result: Zimmerman, a career .288 hitter with a .479 slugging percentage entering 2012, is now batting .229 with a .323 slugging percentage.

"Obviously I'm not doing as well as I want to," he said. "I think any time you're not getting hits like that, something has to change. I've just got to keep working hard and keep doing the same things I've done my whole career, and it'll turn around. The worst thing you can do is panic and try to change everything. We've still got three-and-a-half, four months left, and I plan to continue to work and work out of this thing and help us win more games."

Zimmerman missed two weeks in late-April and early-May with a sprained right shoulder, but he insists he's healthy now. Besides, he always said the injury affected him only in the field, not at the plate.

So what's causing this dramatic drop-off in offensive production?

"I don't know," Johnson said. "He's such a great athlete and such a talented player, I haven't had much conversation with him about it. "But [this week] I'm going to sit down with him and try to figure it out."

Morse has more of a built-in excuse, having only returned two weeks ago from a 2-month stint on the DL with a torn lat muscle. Still, the man who led the Nationals with 31 homers, 95 RBI and a .303 average one year ago understands he needs to start contributing soon.

"I feel great. I feel good," he said. "I'm just not getting what I wish would happen, but it will come."

The Nationals would have loved for those lineup stalwarts to locate their mojo over the weekend during what was a highly anticipated series that drew three straight sellout crowds to South Capitol Street.

It didn't happen, and so the bitter taste of a series sweep will be left in everyone's mouths until they return to the field Tuesday night against the Rays.

In the bigger picture, though, the Nationals seem to understand this weekend didn't make or break their season. Thanks to the foibles of the Braves, Mets, Marlins and Phillies, they still emerge with a four-game lead in the division.

"We're in first place for a reason," Morse said. "We've battled our butts off all year, and we're going to continue to do that."

Not that anyone was trying to take this thumping at the hands of the big, bad Yankees a learning experience. As Zimmerman put it: "I think this team is past that kind of stuff."

Besides, a three-game losing streak in June means little to a ballclub that has lofty expectations for itself.

"It's not October yet," rookie Bryce Harper said. "That's how you look at it. It's not October yet. We've still got a long season. We've still got a lot of games left."


phil dunton said...

Davey has not yet sat down and talked to the former face of the franchise yet! That is truly unbelievable because Zimmerman has been awful from the very start of the season.

Eugene in Oregon said...

Average runs per game per team so far in 2012:

MLB: 4.30

AL: 4.44
NL: 4.18

NYY: 4.77
WashNats: 3.88

In two of the three games, the Nats held the Yankees below their team average, below the MLB average, and below the AL average through nine innings of baseball.

In none of the games did that Nats reach NL average, MLB average, or their own average (which ranks 11th in the NL) through nine innings of baseball.

MikeinDC said...

"Zim! Stop stinkin' already, will ya?!"
"Got it, coach. Gee, wish you would have told me this a couple months ago. Good talk."

That ought to work.

baseballswami said...

Sorry - got new- posted. Just wanted to repeat a plea to be patient with Zim, who has meant so much to us and who has done so much for us during the bad years. Most of my most delirious moments as a fan were directly related to something awesome that he did. Something probably is wrong, physically, personally. Seems like he should be on top of the world but you see no emotion from him, even for a laid back guy. Maybe it's time for that talk? A different spot in the lineup? As for the first pitch strikes - sounds like a managerial philosophy to me. Davey was asked in the post-game and he said he likes it. He thinks that's just agressive hitting. He is not Adam Dunn 2011 bad..

baseballswami said...

Oh - and anyone else think Morse should have done a lot more rehab start? Ten, twelve at bats? He does seem to be making some hard contact.

mick said...

Could the Yankees simply be above the entire league? Imagine if Rivera was not out. Right now, i see the Yankees as AL champs and beating any NL team in the WS.

mick said...

swami.... I think Morse is where he should be, he is at least way ahead of Zim, I have confidence in Morse, i have zero in Zim.

Doc said...

It's interesting the difference between differet sports.

Maybe because of the limited number of games in football, I couldn't imagine the coach, waiting until almost half-way through the season, to talk to a player like Zim having problems.

Sounds like Zim hasn't appealed to any of the coaches, nor they to him--including Eckstein. Strange stuff for a professional sport???

LoveDaNats said...

I love Ryan Zimmerman. I know he will come out of it. The book on him right now must be to throw a first strike fastball because he never swings at the first pitch. I wish him the best. We need him so much. Whatever Davey needs to do to help him should be done. I don't think he's hurt. I think it's in his head. Ryan, we are pulling for you.

Gonat said...

Go through each of Zim's at-bats today and you see what he swung at and how he made contact and none of it was good. In his last at-bat the relief pitcher made a mistake and threw a dead red fastball which Zim took for a strike. For "good" Zim, that ball would have been deposited in the Red Porch seats.

md_schmidt said...

Thanks Mark for beginning some discussions about holding some of the vets accountable. You could have also thrown in LaRoche and Espi (although not exactly a grizzled vet). This is the Nats #1 issue needing addressed - lack of run production. Super stellar pitching and some decent fielding have brought them far but with rising expectations, the offense needs to find itself. Now can we please stop whining about Lidge or an umpire? Thank you!

rogieshan said...

phil dunton said: "Davey has not yet sat down and talked to the former face of the franchise yet! That is truly unbelievable..."

Yeah, it's an interesting admission by Johnson, but you'd be surprised how little direct, day-to-day communication actually takes place in professional sports between players and their manager, especially with veterans.

I was pleased with Johnson's candidness in his post-game press conference today. He lifted the elephant from the room and made one thing crystal clear: this team will not compete in October unless Zimmerman gets straightened out.

Gonat said...

Sorry, it wasn't a relief pitcher in the 8th, it was still Ivan Nova that faced Zim. Look where the mistake fastball was located and the 2nd pitch Zim swung at:

Gonat said...

md_schmidt said...
Espi (although not exactly a grizzled vet). This is the Nats #1 issue needing addressed - lack of run production.
June 17, 2012 9:00 PM

Biggest turning point of the game was the 4th inning with runners on 1st and 3rd and 1 out in a 1-1 game with Espi at-bat and the 1st pitch he fouled off. That was the ball to drive as it middle of the plate and slight up. It was another Nova mistake pitch. On the 3-1 count he swung over the outside pitch that was low in the zone.

baseballswami said...

Off and on they show us just enough to make us think they are about ready to bust out. It's never consistent. ALR one day, Morse one day, Espi one day. When it's more than one of them, you get a 6 game win streak. I am thinking that Desi's injury is worse than he is saying - he was playing flawless defense up until this weekend and now 3 errors in three games. If it's an oblique then reaching would be limited. Let's see what the day off does. We got so lucky with the other nleast teams losing.

rogieshan said...

Gonat said: "In his last at-bat the relief pitcher made a mistake and threw a dead red fastball which Zim took for a strike. For "good" Zim, that ball would have been deposited in the Red Porch seats."

There's the reason why his struggle is more worrisome than Morse's, where the latter is still getting good cuts in but his timing is just off. But with Zimmerman, he become a defensive hitter on the very first pitch. If he says he is physically fine, then I wonder if he is feeling any extra pressure to produce hitting behind Harper, who is clearly outshining him in the public's eye.

peric said...

Swami unless you want to bet on the unknown (and I've considered them at that point for a bit now but that's me) you would have to stick Tyler Moore, Corey Brown, and perhaps Mark Teahen in the lineup instead of allowing Morse to ramp up in the majors.

Johnson went with Harper, Morse and Lombardozzi over Ankiel and Bernadina. Wouldn't you?

Beyond squarely placing Tyler Moore and Corey Brown in that starting lineup, there really isn't much they can do. Perhaps trade opportunities involving the resurgent LaRoche and some pitching might open some things up. We'll just have to wait and see as that part of the season basically starts now ... after the draft.

They've already released Lidge (something they should have done at the beginning of the season IMO).

Desmond is not someone you rely on in the heart of the lineup. Neither is ALR. Its Morse, Zim, and Harper ... perhaps Tyler Moore. Perhaps Corey Brown.

Jimmy DeMoney said...

Until Zim and Morse get it going let's get TYLER MOORE into that starting lineup already! Cannot sit a hot bat in favor of 2 guys obviously struggling.

baseballswami said...

On the 106.7 post game show with Phil Wood a caller asked about Eckstein. There was a lengthy discussion which started with the hitting coach making no difference, Eck works hard, etc. But the discussion ended with maybe sometimes you do need a new voice or a new philosophy. How long do you think they stay with him now that they are showing signs of contending, with the hitters showing no results? Sometimes it's nothing against the person, just some teachers and some students don't click. Our rookies seem to be arriving with a good approach and then losing it. Is it Davey with his aggressive swinging philosophy? Or is it Eckstein with his spread sheets? If it's Davey, things are not going to change. Might Eckstein become a scapegoat at some point?

Unknown said...

Mark, how does Zimmerman look in BP? Last year, LaRoche ket saying he was fine, but he couldn't even hit balls hard or out of the park against BP pitchers. If he's really ok, is he mashing the ball when it's easy? If not, he's probably hiding an injury.

Joe Seamhead said...

Jeez, I'm sure glad that we're still in first place. You'd think that we weren't from many of the posts the past few days.

carolync said...

I wonder if part of Zimmerman's problem might be conditioning. He looks heavier to me.

I was impressed by the number of balls the Yankee hitters sent blistering down the baselines today. Some were just foul but the fair ones were difficult to field and led to doubles. Wonderful hits if you can do it. Is this something stressed by their hitting coach or what?

The Nats looked punchless and sloppy. Texiera came scampering home on a the first of two passed balls. Another error on a routine play from Desmond. If he's hurt, he shouldn't be playing. At least this one didn't let in unearned runs.

It was a beautiful day, a great crowd with a majority of Nats fans, and the Orioles keep beating Atlanta.

realdealnats said...

We caught the Yankees on a blue streak. Seeing eye singles by Zim & Desi. Doubles roped down into the right field corner.

Pitchers did fine except Lidge and he's gone. Gorzo gives up some homers but he's eaten a lot of innings plus got us through his share of jams. I vote to keep HRod and put him into 6th or 7th inning.

Hitting is the problem and we all knew this from the get-go. We have been good enough and lucky enough to manufacture enough offense to stay 4 games in first.

Zim and Morse will come around. That's who they are. Maybe not as good as last year but they hit. Maybe Zim's still hurting. Morse is hitting it hard to people with virtually no rehab.

Stick Tyler Moore in left for his bat. Rotate Lombo with Zim and Espi as much as possible. Get Eck and Davey to get these guys to work the counts--whether they take or swing at first pitches. But don't be predictable. Don't guess. Get Corey Brown up for Nady. Keep Ankiel for defense. If you have to rotate LaRoche and Moore at first some to get Brown in the lineup do that. Hope that Zim, LaRoche, Werth, and Ankiel provide enough wisdom and guidance for all this youth.

In the end, this is the year to grow and get tougher. Learn to do all the little things at the right time to continue to steal games until the hitting shows up. If not this year, go get a vet in the offseason who can hit the ball and is not a clown. In Rizzo & Davey We Trust. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and Rendon won't spend as much time on the DL as Nick Johnson and he'll add another great bat in a couple years.

Wendell said...

"Obviously I'm not doing as well as I want to," he said. "I think any time you're not getting hits like that, something has to change. I've just got to keep working hard and keep doing the same things I've done my whole career, and it'll turn around. The worst thing you can do is panic and try to change everything. We've still got three-and-a-half, four months left, and I plan to continue to work and work out of this thing and help us win more games."

I love RZ, but this statement is a troubling sign. "Something has to change but I need to keep on doing the same thing." Reading between the lines, it seems as if Zimm is panicking and does not have a clue what the problem is. Thus the Davey comments.

I think something is very wrong here. Maybe he's still hurt and needs some rest or to go back on the DL. If so, so be it. But Zim & the team need to figure this out.

Maybe the wedding is a distraction. Mine was until I learned that I had a very minor supporting role - the mother-in-law is the boss, the bride second in commend & my job was to say, "Yes dear." After that, no problem.

I don't believe Zim is the sort of guy that needs to be "held accountable". We're not talking about Lastings Milledge. It's not as if he could fix the problem if only he tried harder. I think he, Davey, & the team don't have a clue what the problem is. Until they figure that out, no fix is in sight.

Some, in understandable frustration, have suggested trading RZ. Whatever the merits, this is simply not possible. No team will sign an underperforming player to a long expensive contract.

Zim is the single biggest problem facing the Nationals. If he performs at career levels, we're in the playoffs. If he continues on the current trajectory, the team will need to make some consequential decisions. What they are, no one knows.

rogieshan said...

carolync said, "I wonder if part of Zimmerman's problem might be conditioning. He looks heavier to me."

I agree as well. I raised that possibility here last week and was told emphatically that Zimmerman stayed in DC this past off season and worked his tail off. He did hit fairly well during grapefruit season. Maybe the injury he suffered and the subsequent rehab have affected him more than he's willing to let on.

Schumatrix said...

You have to hit to beat the big boys. We learned that you can't come into a series with a lineup that hits poorly and only get a good performance out of one guy (Desmond) and win. Zim and Morse have to come around, and I still think they can, but the poor hitting against lackluster pitching cannot continue.

Another_Sam said...

First I say: I'm so over this past weekend. Yankees who? Actually read the standings and you'll feel better. [Also look at the late 50's eary 60's Senators records -- as I just did -- and you'll feel better too.]

Point 2: Zimm is going to continue to hit third every day, for every at bat, as long as he has a pulse. I'm fine with that. Wannabe GM's, find another ax to grind.

Still, I wish he'd get a hit now and then.

When JW returns, what's the outfield going to look like?

Laddie Blah Blah said...

When Adam Dunn was with the team, Ryan started using Adam's bat, a bigger, heavier model. That was the year Zim had 28 HRs, hit .306, and won his silver slugger. At only 24, he seemed on the cusp of breaking out into major stardom.

Then, he got injured the next year and missed major time. Last year, too, and then this year, as well.

Ryan's bat seems to have slowed down. Maybe all those injuries have caught up to him. Many, many times have I seen him swing at a FB down the middle, but he just can't seem to catch up to any of them. He used to be a dead fastball hitter. Now, every pitcher this side of that Mets' knuckleballer throws him the FB with impunity. At least 2 of the 3 HRs he has hit this year were off curve balls (I made a note of it for the last 2), not FBs.

Maybe Zim should give his old teammate a call. No, not the Big Donkey, but Alfonso Soriano. Soriano has rediscovered his HR swing since going to a lighter bat.

Really great to see the Big Donkey killing them, again. Glad he's in the other league. Maybve he will finally make the AS team. He deserves it, for sure.

320R2S15 said...

Zimmerman is finding out how difficult it is to be Zimmerman. Face it , it is a turning point in his world. Now he is the undisputed leader of a MLBT, previously he was the talented kid who really lived above his potential, now he is THE MAN.No more sneakin up on people, this is much more difficult.

If you watch him, he is trying to do and say the right things, don't get to upset, fly off the handle at know,go all Kirk Gibson on everyone. I would actually like to see some emotion from Ryan, at this point how can it hurt?

Yea right, Davy should have done something by now, Eck needs to go....Listen, dealing with MLBP's is different that high school or even college players, they do not give their undevided attention, it's more a maintenence thing, the egos are egg shell thin. Davy is on solid ground, and he clearly sees and likes what Eck is doing. Our boys need to grow up and act like the pro's they want to become. Stick with Zimm Mick, we have no choice. I'm still diggin this...screw the Yankees.

natscan reduxit said...

... what I found acceptable about this weekend's travesty is that our losses helped the Yankees stay ahead of the O's.

Go Nats ... and start again!!

sjm308 said...

Realdeal - I agree with just about every move you made at 10:52 and add Desmond to that list of rotating people. You have 4 infielders and between them each should be getting some rest. I know Davey is tough enough to look both Zimm & Desmond in the eye and say "you are sitting this one game out". People said Lombo didn't have the arm for 3rd but he is ok for a game. Espinosa can handle SS for a game and Lombo can definitely spell Espinosa. When they are hot, leave them alone but right now we need Moore's bat somewhere.

AnotherSam - agree completely that Zimm will not be moved around in the lineup, but a day of rest every now and then just might help. In answer to your outfield question I think it will be Morse-Harper-Werth but he does have some options doesn't he.

Numbers & Letters guy - great last paragraph and I am so with you on the Yankees (but man, they play well)

baseballswami said...

It's only the bloggers and fans that want the guys to work the count. The manager wants them to swing hard and early. I am wondering if he and Eck work together, share a philosophy or contradict each other. Seems like often when there is a new manager, they want to bring in their own hitting coach. Johnson was with the Nats so he was probably good with him. I know Ryan is a level guy, but I think it's a little creepy that he never shows any emotion - no chirping to the ump, no frustration at striking out, no slamming of a helmet in the dugout. I have watched the Nats for years now and he has at least shown some emotion. Maybe he needs to get tossed or get hit and charge the mound. No, not gonna happen. A little close- to -mid-season resting seems in order - use the young guys who are hungry and hot to give them days off - gives them some much- needed at bats and helps the regulars make it through a long season.

natscan reduxit said...

"I've just got to keep working hard and keep doing the same things I've done my whole career, and it'll turn around." - Ryan Zimmerman, June 17, 2012.

… this is the kind of crap I keep hearing, the kind of drivel I have heard all my life, from players who are devoid of answers. It is the reason some wag somewhere coined the phrase, "Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity'.

… the fact is, the fact is simple: work harder at making the necessary changes, not at doing the same things.

Go Zimm; Go Nats!!

Jimmy DeMoney said...

I question Davey's wisdom in bringing in a closer (Lidge) in the middle innings twice and practically giving away the series. It was obvious to me that Lidge was not his old self. I'd have rather seen Stammen, Gorzo, or even Det.
Still, I know it was run production that killed us. I don't know why Morse isn't bunting to get Dunn over to 3rd with no outs? C'mon Davey - small ball produces precious runs!!!

Jimmy DeMoney said...

sorry, I meant LaRoche over to 3rd! Props to the Big Donkey tho for his great season

baseballswami said...

Interesting note about RZ -- I knew that Batting Stance Guy was involved in his charity but did not know why. His mom also has ms, also since he was in the 5th grade and has been in a wheel chair the same amount of time. Apparently they have become close friends. I don't know how to link things but if you go to BSG web site he talks about how much he loves the nats and shows some funny stuff. Once again, RZ is a great guy, has been our only source of hope for years - he will figure this out. As fans it's time for us to stick by him the way he has stuck with us. Morse will also come around. Are we true Nats fans or only-when-we-win bandwagoneers? Starting to sound a little Philly-esque up in here.

alexva said...

it's a slump and he'll snap out of it, or he won't. he's pressing, that's obvious by watching him take so many strikes. pitch recognition is the key to hitting and when you think too much the ball is by you.

unless he's still hurt there is nothing to do but continue to do what's made him successful in the past. a swing key can help in the short term but he hasn't lost the skill it's just eluding him right now.

natsfan1a said...

natscan, seconded. Also, the NL East losses ensured that our guys were only treading water as far as the standings go.

In addition to being a test of sorts for the team, I thought it was one for the fans. At the game we attended (Sunday's), I thought that overall Nats fans did a good job of shouting down the Yankees fans, despite not having a whole lot to cheer for. OTOH, the usher in our section (408) did not do such a good job of shutting down fans roaming the aisles during at-bats. In fact, he didn't really seem do anything at all in that regard. Nats fans, Yankees fans (which kinda surprised me), they were walking all up and down the aisles, posing for pics in front of the field, during just about any at-bat of your choosing (Q: "What's up in the pic behind you? Looks like there's some guy swinging a bat? And other guys standing on the bases?"; A: "Yeah, evidently they were tied up or something. What-ever. Didn't my pink rhinestone NYY hat look awesome?")

My fave moment was the Harper throw, though I liked the LaRoche dinger as well. It came right after a lone Yankees fan in our section chanted "Let's Go Yankees!" At first, I thought I was hearing Nats fan boos in response, then I realized it was the submarine horn. Ah, the schadenfreude. Thanks, Adam. I owe you one. On another note, I thought the kids who played the anthem and God Bless America were great.

On the down side (other than the loss), WTH was up with "YMCA" at the 7th inning stretch? Isn't that a NYY thing? Oh well. At least they didn't play "New York, New York" at the end of the game. Although I did have to listen to a Yankees fan bellow "Thaaa Yankees win! Thaaaaaaaa Yankees win!" as he exited the park. He followed up with "That's why I'm a Yankees fan" and something unintelligible (I'm thinking to myself, "That explains your rooting preference, but why are you an #%Q@$$%%?" What I actually *said* was "I beg your pardon?") Oh well. At least we don't have to see them invade our park series after series, like that team up north. Thank goodness we've seen the last of those "Got Rings?" t-shirts for three years. Unless we see them in the postseason. Eh, maybe not. This year, anyway. ;-)

Gonat said...

baseballswami said...
Interesting note about RZ -- I knew that Batting Stance Guy was involved in his charity but did not know why. His mom also has ms, also since he was in the 5th grade and has been in a wheel chair the same amount of time. Apparently they have become close friends. I don't know how to link things but if you go to BSG web site he talks about how much he loves the nats and shows some funny stuff. Once again, RZ is a great guy, has been our only source of hope for years - he will figure this out. As fans it's time for us to stick by him the way he has stuck with us. Morse will also come around. Are we true Nats fans or only-when-we-win bandwagoneers? Starting to sound a little Philly-esque up in here.

June 18, 2012 8:37 AM

While Zim has shown superstar quality on a team that stunk for years, he has never really shown the consistency of a superstar because he keeps getting derailed by injuries and this year is no exception.

This team's stars are named Strasburg, Gio, Bryce and the other Zimmermann.

natsfan1a said...

fwiw, two of those players have also lost playing time to injury, although not as frequently. Of course, they've also not been with the MLB team as long.

On a game day note, forgot to add that I punched my 100 ballots and got a bobblehead before the game. Yay, me. It was touch-and-go there for a while, what with the unfolding, punching, and refolding, but I did make it to my seat just before the first pitch. Had to fill in my scorecard lineups on the fly, but at least I did my part to help the team. :-)

One other random observation, there seem to be a lot of local NYY fans. I get growing up there and sticking with the team, but perhaps there are some, uh, admirers from afar as well? You know, the 20-something ones. With the pink hats. Who are too busy posing for pics to watch the game. Saw a number of cars with local plates, full of NYY fans. Also saw a number of NYY fans who had purchased Nats gear at the team store. Wait, maybe they're jumping on *our* bandwagon? hmmm... One guy on the subway was nattering about how the "hometown" Nats were his NL team now, and the Yanks his AL team. Funny thing is, he didn't have any Nats gear on. Just Yankees gear. We did see a few fans wearing both. Also families with some folks wearing Nats gear (usually young kids) and others wearing Yankees gear. Was cool to see all the fathers and sons in attendance, and in some cases grandpa as well. Hope they all had a nice day, no matter which team they called their own.

natsfan1a said...

I'll also note that, while I did whinge a great deal about the Yankees fans in my posts, overall they were not as obnoxious as Phoolies Phans. It's just not fun having another fan base take over the park. Especially when they sweep us. Oh, I forgot about the young guy who pointed and laughed as we punched our ballots before the game. "Ha-ha, ballot stuffers." I was like, "Yeah, well, we're trying to get a bobblehead. And your guys will all get voted in, anyway." He's like, "Well, at least you realize the truth." Heh. :-)

NatsLady said...

1A--turned in my 500 and got a Frank Howard bobblehead and a nice mug. There was a lady turning in 5000! She started punching in May (but didn't write in Harper's name on hers like I did. Snark.)

Gonat said...

The bigger issue with Zim may not be whether he is in a slump or not it goes back to his durability. He is only 27 years old and every season since 2008 except 2009 he has sustained an injury.

2010 was Zim's best statistical season and it ended early due to that abdominal injury which lingered into 2011 where he missed 61 games last year. In 2008, Zim had the labrum injury. In 2012, its another shoulder injury.

erocks33 said...

Prior to yesterday's game, the MASN folks put up a couple of stats that I thought were very interesting:

- In the first two games of the series, the Nats pitchers tossed 84 more pitches than the Yankees.

- For the entire 2012 season, number of hits by each teams rookies: Nats 102, Yankees 0.

To me, the first stat shows exactly how the Yanks have a gameplan when they come to the plate. Patience. Be aggressive when the opposing pitcher grooves a pitch where they are looking for it, otherwise they wait for that mistake pitch. When they have 2 strikes on them, the Yanks are great at shortening their swings and fouling off close pitches. Something the Nats hitters just have not learned to do (yet).

The second stat shows me that so far in the regular season, the Yanks are showing that a good offense can beat a good pitching staff. It has been shown that this may not continue once the playoffs start (Giants, Cards, etc), but it does help get your team INTO the playoffs.

The Yanks non-All Star veterans (Andruw Jones, Ibanez, Jayson Nix, Chavez, etc) all had professional at-bats when they needed to. Including hitting to the right side to move a runner from second to third; hitting a sac fly to score a runner from third with less than two outs; laying down sac bunts moving runners into scoring position; and so on. The Nats for years have had difficulty performing these fundamental tasks (be them rookies, veterans, All-Stars, etc). Until the Nats can perform these little things (be it in the 2nd, 4th or 8th innings), we will continue to see the team scoring three runs or less per game.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

erocks, great stats which head to head you can see the impact of great coaching and why I refer to Kevin Long as a top hitting Coach. He believes in simplifying swing mechanics and has done it with newer Yankees players like Granderson, Swisher, and even the short time he had Justin Maxwell.

Maybe Long can give LH Espi a private lesson.

NatsLady said...

The human towel being "demoted" to AA so he can change roles.

...pitcher Ryan Perry, 25, from Syracuse, a former first round pick (2008) of the Detroit Tigers whom Doug Harris, the Nationals' director of player development, said will move from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Perry hasn't started since his final season at the University of Arizona and is reportedly looking forward to the challenge.

Lots of roster moves in the minors. Housecleaning. You have to wonder if the big club is next.

Harrisburg Senators endure hefty roster shakeup

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

The Yankees are far from perfect but their offensive execution is amazing. Their use of small ball may not help their Batting Averages but they drive in runs hitting behind runners and they were masterful at running up pitch counts and getting into the bullpen.

NatsLady said...

David Huzzard ‏@DavidHuzzard
That whole swinging on the first pitch thing works for some players. Harper .344/.353/.750, Espinosa, .382/.382/.765, Desmond .403/.403/.548

JamesFan said...

Time to regroup. Yanks worked our pitchers to get their pitch count up and get to the pen. Others will do the same now. We started three rookies yesterday; they started two-three hall of famers and half a dozen all-stars. They looked better prepared, more polished, confident and deeper. We have 3/4 season to make up that difference.

What pitchers have been doing to Zim for weeks is to throw low and away, and he has shown no ability to hit balls there. Until he does, he's going to get a steady diet of this stuff.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I didn't keep track but it sure seemed like most Nat hitters found themselves in immediate 0-2 counts while most Yankee hitters found themselves in 2-0 counts.And that was consistent through out the series.

mick said...

Hey Mark, Rick Maese of the Post beat you to my idea to interview an old timer who was around in 1933. In fact this dude Howard Allen was around in 1924! Great read "page D3 "Finally getting to root for a winner"

God Bless this dude!!!

Anonymous said...

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

"The Yankees are far from perfect but their offensive execution is amazing. Their use of small ball may not help their Batting Averages but they drive in runs hitting behind runners and they were masterful at running up pitch counts and getting into the bullpen."

The Yankees were absolutely awful with runners in scoring position all series. They really weren't any better than the Nats have been all year either in terms of run production(16 runs in 34 innings is less than 4.5 per nine) or "clutch" hitting. In fact they were probably worse. They came up empty in big spots time and time again, taking advantage of potentially big innings in two big spots (8th inning on Friday, 14th inning on Saturday).

I think this might be a case of making the analysis fit the game results. If the ump makes the right call on Moore's play at the plate on Saturday, and Espinosa's hard-hit ball in the 4th inning on Sunday was down the line for a double instead of right at Cano for a DP, all the talk today would be about the Yanks coming up empty in big spots and how the Nats were able to hold that incredible lineup at bay.

NatsLady said...

Yesterday, the Yanks got their runs on two solo homers, a passed ball and a single followed by a double. They were 0-12 RISP.

In the fourteen inning game they were 2-18.

Only in the Friday game did Lidge/Gonzalez help them to 4-8 RISP.

The Yanks have a known weakness RISP, just go to their sites to hear a lot of moaning. If they had any kind of average RISP it would have been blowout city over the weekend.

mick said...

I was there for Saturday's game. The trip had some value as I toured old DC afterwards, saw what is left of the old DC Uline and the tennis courts at Fort McNair where the Lincoln conspirators were hanged. Talk to a serviceman who says that there have been sightings of Mary Suratt's ghost near the courts over the past many years.

NatsLady said...

The Nats lost the Friday game (as I said at the time, it wasn't likely to be winnable, statistically, and it wasn't won). Saturday and Sunday could have gone either way as Bowdenball pointed out.

The Nats got lots of breaks in Toronto (starting with Morrow going down after nine pitches). They didn't get them over the weekend, including Harper getting knotted up on Saturday (which was the mental equivalent of an injury, just only lasted a day.)

Gonat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mick said...

back to the Nats, next 3 at home are huge... not just winning, but Zim. If Zim does not hit, he has to sit, rest and work this out perhaps with a REAL hitting coach outside the organization. Clearly, eck has no clue and a different set of eyes could only help.

Anonymous said...

Johnson says he needs to "get Zim in a happy place"!! That is funny. PLEASE, let the "happy place" be Syracuse. And let Morse get in his spring training there, too. Zimmerman looks completely lost, at bat, and Morse looks like he's wondering what the heck he is doing there!! If Johnson keeps them hitting third and fourth, he sure can't have much confidence in the other players. The Nats luck is running out. Unless the pitchers get out. For the rest of the season....PRAY.

natsfan1a said...

Bowdenball, having grown up in the SFO Bay Area, and being of a certain age, I'm aware of the song's background.

On another note, didn't have time to read blog posts or comments on vaca, so I'm not up to speed on scapegoats. Who's the lucky fellow now, Zimm, or is it more of a day-to-day thing? :-)

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Turn on106.7. Discussing Nats

baseballswami said...

I didn't say Zim was a superstar - I said he has meant a lot to this team and its fans. So maybe he is not going to be Matt Kemp,but maybe he is going to be Scott Rolen. If he isn't a superstar, the whole thing was a waste? Great guy, mainstay of the Nats and their fans,someone kids can emulate,holding down the fort at third year after year. He is going through a terrible time offensively - and so we turn on him? Last year David Wright and Adam Dunn were truly abominable, this year they have recovered. I hope it doesn't take the whole year but I am not ready to turn my back on him.

baseballswami said...

natsfan1a - RZ and Mikey, can't you tell? I actually don't think Morse looks bad at the plate - he has made some scorching contact hit right to a defender or caught in the outfield. Their issues are totally different right now.

Will said...

What the hell?

We lose 3 games to arguably the best team in baseball and rabbit34 is demanding that Zimmerman be demoted?!

Are you friggin kidding me??

First of all, you cannot demote Zimmerman. Second, you're 100% nuts to suggest such a thing.

Cut the doom and gloom end-of-days crap, and support your first place team!

MicheleS said...

1A.. Scapegoats, Everyone that is not the Top 4 Starters, or Bryce (although if he has another 0-7 I am sure they will turn on him). That includes Rizzo being fired and Davey being shipped to the old folks home.

MicheleS said...

Standing next to Will, nodding my head with and Atta Boy!!! You Get Him!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Bowdenball, thanks for quoting me but please do.t change my message. I didn't discuss RISP.

1. Execution overall worked against excellent pitching
2. Hitting behind runners instead of in front of runners
3. Running up pitch counts

Will said...

Who thought Nats fans were more melodramatic than Yankees fans! We lose 3 games in a row (after sweeping 2 very good teams), and people demand the head of the best player on the team.

I'm disgusted with the posts here and general attitude of the fanbase.

I can't imagine the uproar if you all were Angels fans and had to put up with Pujols' first 45 games.

Stuff like this happens. Zimm will break out sooner or later. Sometimes slumps last for a week, sometimes they go a whole year (Adam Dunn seems to have recovered well from his historically bad 2011). But how dare anyone call for Zimmerman to get demoted. That's despicable.

sjm308 said...

Can we please just stop with the Zimmerman bashing. Yes, he is in a slump, it might last all year and he might break out, but he is going nowhere (Rabbit is in a dream world if he thinks the face of the franchise would be shipped to Syracuse). Look at David Wright last year and also Dunn (although not a complete player like Wright). The Mets stayed with Wright and he is having his typical All-Star year again this year. I trust in Davey and Zimm to figure this out and I love that we can get swept and still have that same 4 game lead. How many of you thought we would be in first place for the majority of the beginning of this year? I have to admit, I did not and I am loving it.

I should probably put a 2nd post up on this topic but we need a unified cheer at home games. Not just booing out "lets go Yankees", or "Derick Jeter". We need something creative to drown out Yankee, Philly or whoever is trying to get their team going. Stephen Strasburg is that neat 4 syllable mantra but that is only once every 5 games. I guess the 3 syllable "Lets Go Nats" would work but it has to be the whole park and not just a section or two. Help me out here, I am looking for Sofa or natsfan1a to lead the way.
We do have an old guy up high above 308 that cheers his heart out every single game. We are disappointed when he is not in attendance.

Go Nats!!!

Eugene in Oregon said...

bowdenball @ 9:54 said: "I think this might be a case of making the analysis fit the game results. If the ump makes the right call on Moore's play at the plate on Saturday, and Espinosa's hard-hit ball in the 4th inning on Sunday was down the line for a double instead of right at Cano for a DP, all the talk today would be about the Yanks coming up empty in big spots and how the Nats were able to hold that incredible lineup at bay."
You're partially right, and I'm not despondent over this series because the Nats could have -- as you suggest -- taken any of the games, particularly the last two. Baseball can be incredibly random and sometimes a blown call, a ball hit a few inches further right or left (over which the hitter has no control), or a defender positioning himself well and making an inspired play could have made a huge difference. But we also have to remember that, throughout the year, the Nats have benefited from some of those same sort of random breaks. Other teams' fans could make similar shoulda, woulda, coulda arguments. Such breaks may not always 'even out' for you, but they do go both ways many times over the course of a long season.

My concern, highlighted in the numbers I posted without much comment at the beginning of this thread, remains the Nats inability to score the NL average number of runs per game. And that's an inherent problem with this team's offense. Whether you put the blame on individual players, the hitting coach, the manager, or the GM -- and you can make a case against each -- the bottom line is that if you can't score at or above the league average you're always going to have rely on pitching, defense, and a bit of randomness (aka luck) to win. And thus you start at a huge disadvantage, because sometimes one or two of those is going to fail you. If you have the above-league-average scoring to go with the pitching and defense -- as do the Yankees, the Rangers, and even the Dodgers -- you're still going to lose games, but you're in much better shape to weather the occasional pitching or defensive meltdown (or the blown call or tough break). Balance is what you need, and balance is what the Nats still lack.

Will said...

Moving on to less hyperbolic histrionics, and to stats, it's really hard to pick out what it is that's to blame for Zimm's lack of production.

All the basics are very much in line with his career averages. He's walking the same and striking out the same (9.0% 2012 BB% vs 9.2% career and 17.0% 2012 K% vs 16.9% career).

He has been quite unlucky. His BABIP is only .267, while his career stands at .316. With some regression to the mean, you could expect his batting average to rise. However, that doesn't solve the problem, because he's been hitting for significantly less power. His ISO (slugging % - batting avg) is wayyy below average. It's .095 right now, compared to .185 career. Even if more hits begin falling, they're not going to fall into the Red Porch, as his HR to flyball rate is about 2-2.5 times lower than his career average. Curiously, though his groundball, linedrive and flyball rates are nearly identical to his career norms.

It's all a bit bizarre. The only glaring weakness does seem to be his ability to hit fastballs. He used to be one of the best in baseball. He was about 20 runs better than average at hitting fastballs from 2009-2010, but this year he's been below average. That's one of the few things that seem way out of whack this year.

Maybe Zimm needs to take some more time in the batting cage to better spot those fastballs... Otherwise, I don't really have any ideas...

MicheleS said...

Will. just got to learn who to scroll past...and don't read the in game threads... I learned the hard way yesterday. There are a few who post the dribble just to pick a fight and show what they think is their superior attitude (i think they are o's fans)

mick said...

Yankee fans are funny, and half the fun was razzing them and hearing them raz back. Its like attending half baseball game half Dice Clay stand up with Yankee fans.

As I said before Phillie fans are miserble a-holes.

sjm308 said...

I also wanted to thank erocks for providing what my son and I were questioning after both Friday and Saturday. I thought it would actually be higher concerning the number of pitches thrown. We have 3 notable first pitch swingers so I am guessing we will never drive the pitch count up but it was crazy to watch the Yankee hitters get 2 strikes and then foul off 3 or 4 pitches and it was not just one or two players. They all must really work at this in spring training, or they are constantly reminded during the season. This is not a knock on Eck, I have not seen any other team do this and they have done it for years and years. It also did not help that we were not throwing first pitch strikes. In the game Saturday where I kept score, JZimmnn threw first pitch strikes to just NINE batters in his 6 innings. In that long 4th inning where we gave them 5 outs he threw just one first pitch strike to the 6 batters he faced.

Key to me is first pitch strikes and first batter out in each inning.

Go Nats!!

mick said...

hickory dickory dock.... bada bing, lol

sjm308 said...

MichelleS - I learned early in the year to skip the "in game" posts. I love Mick but he would have the entire team shipped to Russia along with a new manager and GM, he then takes a deep breath and gets back to rooting for his team. Its much saner after the game but there are still people making snap judgements on a game that is played and played hard for 6 months of the year! This year we will have a team playing for a 7th month and I can't wait!!

Go Nats!!

A DC Wonk said...

Regarding "having a plan" and "working the count" and Nats pitchers having to throw so many more pitches:

NatsJack in Florida said...

I didn't keep track but it sure seemed like most Nat hitters found themselves in immediate 0-2 counts while most Yankee hitters found themselves in 2-0 counts.And that was consistent through out the series.

There's your reason. When the Nats pitchers aren't throwing 1st or 2d pitch strikes, of _course_ the Yanks are going to take the pitches, and then work the count.

Bowdenball's remark actually applies to at least half the comments here:

I think this might be a case of making the analysis fit the game results.

Fact is, a correct ump call, a batted ball or two just a foot or two over in either direction -- and we'd all be crowing about how the Nats won two out of three.

And, although I didn't see them, weren't like half the hits Lidge gave up seeing-eye-infield-grounder singles?

And as for RZ . . . as many have previously pointed out: didn't David Wright slump for almost all of last year? (And this year is a top all star)? Stuff like that happens. If there were an easy or obvious fix, Wright would have fixed his own problem last year.

RZ doesn't show emotion? That's OK. The season's a marathon -- almost everybody says you can't get too down or too up from one game to the next.

If RZ has a pulse, you can be sure he's beating himself up over his performance, and I'm sure that he's trying to overcome that with keeping a positive attitude.

Good day for a day off, then lets beat up on some Rays.

NatsLady said...

Watching David Price in his last start vs. the Mets (the R.A. Dickey 1-hitter). He was at 80+ pitches by the 5th inning and he started giving up hits. (First inning 20 pitches, 2nd inning 21 pitches). He was still throwing 96 with sink, but it began to miss the zone. Then he put it in the zone and CRACK. He's sweating and breathing hard when he gets a break with a coaching visit. After another sharp single it's now 3-0 NY and he goes 3-2 and strikes out Wright (after just about hitting him twice) and he's at 97 pitches.

Madden leaves Price in for the top of the 6th and he promptly gives up two singles (Hairston, Bay), a double (Rottino) a single (Davis) and Madden finally takes him out. The middle reliever (Baddenhop) lets the inherited runners score.

So, here is my thought: If Price got tired pitching in his own (air-conditioned) house, can we get to him in our house when will have to hit and it will be a warm (85+) evening?

Anonymous said...

Ghost of Steve M-

1. I consider PAs with RISP and runs scored to be great ways to evaluate "execution overall," don't you think? What is "execution" after all, if you're not scoring runs when in a position to do so? I only remember two Yankee runs scored on sacrifices all series, which is not that much, and in any event is not the best possible result with a runner on third and less than two outs. Especially when you have a lineup like theirs so capable of putting up crooked numbers at any time.

2. Do you have any evidence to support the idea that they hit behind runners effectively? I don't remember thinking that at any point.

3. I agree they were good at running up pitch counts, but all three of our starters made it 6 innings without allowing significant damage. That's a perfectly fine result. And they only have one hitter in the top 40 of MLB in pitches per plate appearance. I think they seemed particularly patient in this series in part because of what they did, but also in part because we were so impatient in comparison.

My bottom line is that I think it's possible that this analysis and praise for the Yanks is results-driven. They hit a couple more where we are (remember Friday night's epidemic of perfectly placed soft grounders?), and we hit a couple more where they ain't, and I bet the analysis changes a lot.

mick said...

sjm308 said...

I love Mick but he would have the entire team shipped to Russia along with a new manager and GM, he then takes a deep breath and gets back to rooting for his team.

Like the late Clark Griffith once said... "I don't know what I'm going to do, but whatever it is, it won't be rationale"


natsfan1a said...

sjm, speaking of the "Jeter" chant, I was keeping that in my back pocket for most of the game. Later in the game, I chanted it loud and clear when he made an out with runners on. :-)

MicheleS and sjm, yeah, I don't usually comment in game threads, and if I read the comments later, it tends to be after wins but not losses.

NatsLady said...

Honestly, would Davey have done better here? He might (repeat might) have let Price start the 6th, because Davey makes these "OK, one hitter" deals, but he certainly would have taken him out after the first single.

Of course, they weren't winning anyway, but you can only control what you can control, and I'm clueless why Madden left Price in. Madden let a 3-0 game get to 7-0... Maybe the best manager in baseball conceded the game at the end of the fifth inning? Nawwwwwwww, couldn't happen.

MicheleS said...

New Post..

sjm308 said...

NatsLady, let it go

NatsLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
320R2S15 said...

last I checked Dunn was hitting at a lower average than glad he is gone. Interesting item by a previous poster about the big bat, makes sense what with the long useless power stroke. See that's why I like this site.

NatsLady said...

sjm308---in your dreams.

But I am genuinely puzzled why Madden left Price in after the first single in the 6th. Davey would not have done that. Price is young, but he's not a rookie, he's a proven Ace, two-time All-Star, etc., and he was going for his fiftieth, yes fiftieth win. Take the guy out, it's not his day.

Steady Eddie said...

Thanks to MicheleS (as always), erocks, sjm308, Will, natsfan1a, swami and ghost for focusing on the meaningful stuff and for the moment, quieting the more ridiculous and hysterical comments. I have no appetite, ever, for doing anything other than ignoring silly rabbit, who never makes a useful contribution here that I can see, but I appreciate you all's doing so.

Beyond the many good comments, some though not all of which reflect my views, the one thing I didn't see directly was that the Yanks came in with a strategic plan for this series. It's no accident that notwithstanding their MLB-leading homer total that has powered them most of the year, they really didn't win any of the games based on homers. Yeah, I know, two solos yesterday was more runs than we scored, but that was more on our lack of our own concerted offense than their overwhelming us with offense -- they only outhit us 28-24 for the series, and much of the key damage was against Lidge.

They came in knowing we had a great pitching staff and that they would not win planning on the 3 run homer, so they would wear them down and take what was given, including walks and high pitch counts to get the starters out. Most of their key damage was on dinky singles and doubles down the line. I know some of these points have been made but the big picture is that they came in with a plan to depart from what they had won on and we came in with same old "aggressive hitting" as we did for anyone else, which means hitting the pitchers' pitches to get out rather than fouling them off until you get a pitch you can drive.

In other words, their series plan accepted that we would mostly shut down their power but determined that they could get their runs with small ball, and our approach did nothing to counteract that with the recognition that three or fewer runs -- which was enough for 11 of our wins this year -- was not going to do it. The Yanks' pitching as a whole is only decent -- how many times have we won this year by waiting out other teams' starters and getting one or two against their BP? -- but was not going to melt down like the Sox's and Jays'staffs, so a Davey admonition not to swing from the heels might have been part of a plan to the contrary, but there was no Yankee-specific plan that any of us could see. So they planned for our weaknesses and exposed them.

bobfromalexandria said...

I was at the Friday night game and bummed when we lost. Miserable after loss #2, but started to feel good after loss #3. Because now we know where we are -- a shade behind the Yankees, with some specific gaps to fill, and with that knowledge we can improve. Like -- Bam Bam (yes four strikeouts in one game gets the nickname back) needs to fill the hole in the bucket that comes with sliders and change-ups. Zim needs to get it together (or acknowledge that he's not fully healed). Better strategic at-bats. Shape up the bullpen (sorry 'bout that, Lidge). Stick to the plan. Look again at the AL East and see that the Yanks are only a few games ahead -- maybe it's a tougher division that we that.

Would rather have won some, but this can be a good news story. Go NATS!

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Hopefully we went to school over this.

Eck and Davey need to sit the batters down andgo over the film.

See how many times the Nats swung at the first and got solid contact, seemed most were weak grounders weak flies or a swing and a miss. then check how many times the Yankees got solid contact on first pitch. see how many 3-2 counts we got, how many they got. How many fouls after 2 strikes each team had. How man wings at pitches that were balls each team had.

If we learn from these losses great, if we make the same mistakes again, then not so great.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

THe things that bothers me, people jump on people who jump on Zim, when he is batting worse thn jayson Werth did last year, and people were unmerciful to him. Can't have it both ways.

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