Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Nats lineup looks familiar to Werth

Photo by USA Today
Whether you are a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies or not, it’s hard to deny the fact they had a pretty good run from 2007 through 2011. They were one of the best baseball clubs in recent memory, won five consecutive division titles and a World Series. They were essentially a few injuries and a nine-pitch Johnny Damon at-bat from perhaps being a legitimate dynasty.

So if you loved them or loathed them, having your team compared to them should come as a compliment. And as a big piece of those Philly glory days, Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth is starting to see similarities between his former and current clubs.

Werth has compared hitting behind Nats leadoff hitter Denard Span to when he used to follow Jimmy Rollins, as both players are patient at the plate, speedy, and get on base. But this week he took the comparison further, citing the new-look Nats lineup’s ability to take pitches and push opposing pitchers late into games.

“I think there was one year where Chase [Utley], me, and Ryan [Howard] were in the top five for pitches seen. That was 3, 4, 5, I was hitting fifth. So by the time you get to the middle of the order, you’ve thrown more pitches over the course of the season to those three than any one else in the league.”

“It makes it tough on the other team. It makes it tough on the starter, it gets you into the bullpen. It gets you to see that sixth inning guy, that seventh inning guy, those are the guys you want to see. Those are the guys that you can do damage on. They’re usually pitching the sixth and seventh inning for a reason. They’re usually saving their nastiest guys for the eighth and the ninth.”

The year Werth was referring to was 2009 when the Phillies lost in the World Series, their second appearance in the final round in two seasons. That year he, Howard, and Utley finished second, fifth, and sixth in the majors in pitches seen. Also in the top 30 were Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span.

Werth once again finds himself in one of the majors’ deepest lineups, and perhaps one of its most patient as well.

“I don’t know how many pitches Denard has seen throughout his career, but I’m right up there with pitches seen. So you have two guys like that at the top of the lineup and by the time you get to Harp and Zimm and LaRoche, you’ve thrown a lot of pitches,” he said.

“That takes a toll, chances are you’re not going to be as sharp. You might leave one over the plate, you might leave one up, and with the guys that we have hitting 3, 4, 5, 6, those guys can do damage to pitchers like that.”


A DC Wonk said...

Off topic, but cute comment from baseball prospectus this morning:

"There’s no shame in giving up homers to Bryce Harper. The only shame is if the ball travels around the earth and then hits the pitcher in the back of the head. That didn’t happen to Gavin Floyd though. Not quite. "

Tcostant said...

I like the idea of seeing more pitches. But this team still strikes out to much. I noted how the White Sox made good outs driving in runs om ground ball outs.

I'd like to see more of that here. A guy gets on third with less than 2 hours, he should score most of the time, but the Nationals leave that guy there half the time.

dabassguy1 said...

If the ball went the whole way around the world, wouldn't it hit the pitcher in the face?

3on2out said...

Further off topic but tying to the earlier thread...thanks to all for posting your support for Clint. I wondered why he kept that job year after year and now I understand. My distain for him is the minority position!

Joe Seamhead said...

Not if he turned around and watched it!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

What Jayson is describing is what Yankees baseball when they are going well was so good at. I mentioned it when the Yankees were in DC last year. They just wore down the starters.

As the Nats face guys like Tim Hudson and Maholm this weekend against Stras and Gio, the key will be using Jayson's strategy to a point where you hopefully get in the bullpen before the Nats have to dip into the bullpen.

A DC Wonk said...

From last thread:

Regarding the Braves, they can't keep playing this well.

The Braves swept the Cubs (losers of over 100 games last year), and the Marlins (who have been shut out 4 times already this year, who have scored more than three runs only _once_) who are last in the league in runs scored.

I.e., Braves haven't been tested yet.

This weekend will be fun!

Faraz Shaikh said...

Tcostant, Nats are 17th in total SO on the season so far while accumulating OPS of .850 from their hitters. Only two other teams, Yankees and A's, have fewer Ks and higher OPS. I don't think this time strikes out as much as last season.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Again, small sample sizes but encouraging that Espi has only 5 K's in 8 games. On the other hand RZim has 9 K's in 8 games.

With LaRoche and Espi hitting, it's a key with Ryan Zimmerman in the cleanup spot to get "hot" for this weekend. Even though he doesn't need cortisone, maybe to celebrate the good times we can celebrate with some shots of cortisone when Zim hits his 1st HR of the season!!!!

Faraz Shaikh said...

OTOH, Nationals are the only team right now with 0 stolen bases.

Anonymous said...

I agree, GoSM. Sure it's a small sample sizes, but I bet it would be difficult (maybe impossible?) to find any 8 game stretch in Espinosa's career to date where he had only 5 Ks before this season. His new approach at the plate is the most encouraging development so far in my opinion.

natsfan1a said...

"Whether you are a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies or not,"


"So if you loved them or loathed them,"


That said, those dudes did annoy the [heck] out of me back in the day with such at-bats. May our guys do the same to their fans.

Nice piece, Chase. Thanks. :-)

A DC Wonk said...

Responding to a couple of quotes (i.e., "catching up")

NatsJack - like I said earlier, we have a bunch of worriers early in the season

Why did you qualify that with "early" ?

First time we lose three straight (and it will happen) the worry -- and the worriers -- will be coming out in droves!

However, in the words of Elvis Costello: "I used to be disgusted, but now I just amused"

Those worry-wort comments are a whole lot easier to take when I feel comfortable that the Nats are a great teams, and are, in fact (imho) at the beginning of their great first dynasty years.

Was the traffic nightmare due to the Cherry Blossoms, or was there some other snafu?

I think a multitude of things. Certainly (a) Cherry Blossoms was part of it -- on my ride home I also saw (b) 3rd street closed for a block between C and D NW, which forced everybody going south to either entire the 3rd street tunnel, or go onto a single lane road in front of the already always-congested DC Courthouse; and (c) a disabled van going southbound on 395 just before or after 14th St bridge. And that was only what I saw on my commute home!

I see Rich P also noted a demonstration on the Mall.


D'Gourds said...

Clint served his purpose when the Nats were a horrible product and they had to offer some entertainment diversion from the bad baseball. Now that the Nats are themselves entertaining and Nats fans have become more baseball savvy, they no longer need a smarmy mc who really just adds noise to the game experience.

I agree completely. We're maturing as a fan base, basically.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Faraz, interesting note and that's hard to believe there are 0 steals. Thanks for pointing that out. The baserunning has been atrocious overall and was best last night just doing the little things like going 1st to 3rd on singles. Bad jumps on steals, poor leads and bad reads are certainly easy to point out. Big change as I see it is Davey doesn't want to turn Span into Nyjer who would get on base and take himself off the basepaths with a pick-off or caught stealing at alarming rates.

OTOH, with the other team, the best steal move was last night. Desi yells to JZim to step off which was a point of emphasis in Spring Training and they picked off the runner.

MJR said...

Last night was fun; really nothing to complain about although I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of girl. Danny's looking much more solid from the left side of the plate, Desi's defense is looking less frantic, ALR is starting to hit, I could go on but you catch my drift. This team is going to be lots of fun to watch this year! Just snagged Paul McCartney tickets, too. All's well on this Thursday morning.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I will let Clint stay if they'll get rid of the WWE-refugee PA announcer.

DJB said...

Good post. I think Rizzo picked up Denard for this reason. I agree with the poster above who noted the Yankees series from last year. The biggest thing that jumped out at me was how many pitches the Yankees batters saw. I noticed the same thing during the Orioles game yesterday with the Middlebrooks at bat. He must have fouled 7 pitches before striking out. However, the next two batters hit home runs because he forced the pitcher to show his hand. I hope this continues. It bodes really well for the season. Now let's see how Haren does tonight.

Section 222 said...

The only real worry coming out of our first 8 games is Haren. If he rights the ship, we could still be headed for an historic year. If he doesn't have it, we're in a dogfight with the Braves. Tonight is the next datapoint on that question. I can't wait!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

DJB, I, being the poster who made the Yankees batters comments felt that the focus of what Werth almost singlehandedly did for this team in working pitchers was very under-rated.

The smart people immediately focused on Denard Span's ability to see 5 pitches to start the game and the possibility that the pitcher could be at 10+ pitches before Bryce walked into the batters box.

It worked to perfection in Game 1 of the year even though Span and Werth both made outs, Bryce homered.

It can't be overlooked that the Nats were weak in the past in knocking pitchers out of the game.

JZim saw in one at-bat 7 pitches before he struck out. It was clutch as they were wearing Floyd down.

Candide said...

Theophilus T. S. said...

I will let Clint stay if they'll get rid of the WWE-refugee PA announcer.

Dang - I didn't know you were in charge of these things.

Can you tell Terrance that the next time he starts a wave with the Nats in the field, he's fired?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Sect222, true on Haren but even 2 starts is premature (good or bad).

Rizzo in 2009 and 2010 was the last GM to make any DFAs which showed how slow he is to react. Look how long it took him with Matt Stairs in 2011. Haren will get a lot of time to figure it out and hopefully tonight is the night.

I think we all knew that Haren, HenRod and Espi were the 3 to watch as the big question marks. I still don't see Rizzo going into panic mode with any of those 3. With any luck, all 3 will be huge contributors in the success of this team.

Section 222 said...

Off topic, but cute comment from baseball prospectus this morning

In my view, praise for our Bryce from around the baseball world is never off-topic!

NatsLady said...

It depends. Taking a lot of pitches (working the count) means you are going to be down in the count a lot. The best pitch you may see in an at-bat is often the first pitch (since pitchers are trained to throw that first pitch strike).

I wrote this up a while back.

Striking First

And also when I looked at the differences between Werth and Desmond (and Span).

Two (OK, three) Hitters

A DC Wonk said...

It depends. Taking a lot of pitches (working the count) means you are going to be down in the count a lot. The best pitch you may see in an at-bat is often the first pitch (since pitchers are trained to throw that first pitch strike).

I think the larger point it: one size doesn't fit all. Taking lots of pitches works for Span and Werth -- first pitch swings work well for Desmond. (Which is another reason our line-up is so well constructed -- with Span and Werth 1-2).

Section 222 said...

true on Haren but even 2 starts is premature (good or bad).

I totally agree, which is why I said it's the next datapoint, not a do or die, make or break, last chance start.

So far, only Harper, Span, Werth, JZnn, Det, Ramos, and Storen are playing off the charts well, or even up to expectations. But even though we hope the rest of the team will improve over time, I'm just not worried about anyone except Haren. Yes, Soriano has been a little shaky (though 4 for 5 in save opportunities ain't that bad), the bench has been lackluster at best (but talk about small sample sizes!), Espi, Zim, and ALR have yet to get untracked, Desi's defense has regressed, and H-Rod remains a question mark, but I'm just not worried about any of those components of the team. The difference between this being a historically good team and (just!) a pennant contender is that 5th starter. So far, we haven't seen Haren being as good as advertised.

So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for tonight, and the rest of the month.

Section 222 said...

Did anyone else find it a little ironic thatin a postgame interview Desi was the one praising L-R-L-R lineup construction because it allows everyone to see how the pitcher is handling batters from his side of the plate? I guess it's good he's hitting 6th instead of 1st because if he were leading off, the next RH batter would usually have seen just one pitch before getting in the box.

W/R/T my last comment, I have to take one thing back. I'm still worried about H-Rod, but the fact is he's not nearly as integral to our success as Haren.

NatsLady said...

Wonk, yes, that was my main point. I too was impressed with how the Yankees worked the count in their sweep last June. They were, at that time, simply a better, way more experienced team than the Nats. The shoe may be on the other foot this year, when the Nats have the experience but are still youthful.

But I'm not counting the Evil Empire out yet--if they can play anything like .500 ball until Jeter and some other get back they will have a chance. Every team in the AL East has flaws. GasCanrahan, after going 3 for 3 on saves, had a major meltown last night for the Red Sox. I think we know from his history here that he is affected by booing crowds and bad press--and he will get plenty of both in Boston if he's not absolutely great.

Section 222 said...

Boy did Gascanrahan's bouncing slider bring back memories.

NatsLady said...

I wouldn't want to be in Haren's shoes tonight, being as how the other starters have done well at least once...

Here are some comments (from fantasy sites) on Axelrod, who made it to majors last season.

[Axelrod} was expected to get the nod over Hector Santiago after John Danks was placed on the DL. Axelrod earned the gig by holding a 3.21 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 12/2 K/BB ratio over 14 innings this spring. His career 4.78 ERA is less than inspiring, but Axelrod has a nice minor league track record.

White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod had a solid outing on Saturday at home against the Mariners as he was making his season debut. In fact, Axelrod didn't give up an earned run in the performance and starts the year with a perfect ERA.
Unfortunately for the White Sox starter, Chicago didn't grab the lead until after he left the game. Axelrod settled for the no-decision in the 4-3 win, as he allowed just one unearned run on three hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings.

Axelrod struck out three batters over 97 pitches, including 56 strikes. The 27-year-old kept it going after a solid spring earned him his rotation spot. He went 2-2 with a 5.47 ERA over 14 appearances and seven starts with the White Sox last year.

A DC Wonk said...

Speaking of Boston's 9th inning loss last night, there was also this:

"The longest home sellout streak in major pro sports history ended Wednesday at 820 games for the Boston Red Sox."

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Has anyone heard anything on Christian Garcia?

A DC Wonk said...

Axelrod struck out three batters over 97 pitches, including 56 strikes.

97 pitches sounds like a lot for 5-2/3 innings. And 56 strikes in 97 pitches seems a tad on the low side for pct strikes.

And yet he only walked two and only 3 hits.

Curious. Did he go deep in a lot of counts?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

The Nats post-game ended just in time to see Hanrahan implode. It was so typical of his days in Washington. Sad to watch and for his sake I hope it's not a slide back to his erratic days where it could put his career in jeopardy.

It's hard to believe but Hanrahan after this season will be a Free Agent for the 1st time.

He's making $7 million this year which happens to be more than he has made his entire career up to that point.

peric said...


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