Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Analysis of 0-8

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Garrett Mock has allowed eight hits in five innings but hasn't walked a batter.
JUPITER, Fla. -- Neither Mike Rizzo nor Jim Riggleman is concerned about the Nationals' 0-8 record this spring. Rizzo wishes they wouldn't keep any stats from exhibition games. Riggleman points to strong performances from several key players who will be on his 25-man roster, ignoring the poor performances of those who won't be part of the club.

But 0-8 is 0-8. No other team in the Grapefruit or Cactus leagues has failed to win a game yet. Shoot, Manny Acta's Indians are 4-0 at this moment.

So we can't totally ignore what's going on here. Less than four weeks from Opening Day against Roy Halladay and the Phillies, this team is not playing good baseball. Some are brushing it off as early-March rust. Others are not satisfied with the way things are going.

"The results matter," said closer Matt Capps, who has been scored upon in each of his three outings so far. "We're all competitive. I want to go out and strike the side out every time I go out there. And if I don't, it's not as successful as I want it to be."

With that in mind, let's look at some of the participants from today's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals, evaluating both how they looked as well as what the end result was for each...

GARRETT MOCK: The right-hander wasn't as sharp in his second start as he was in his first. Over three innings, he allowed two runs (both coming on an Allen Craig homer in the second) and five hits. On the bright side, he struck out three and didn't walk a batter. His pitch count of 48 was a tad high, but not outrageous. All this jives with Mock's stated goal of attacking hitters and not nibbling around the strike zone. In five spring innings overall, he still hasn't issued a walk. "I've said it since day one: I'm not going to impress anybody by walking people," Mock said. "I'm not going to help the team out by walking people. I'm not going to help myself out by walking people. This is the time to challenge guys and see where my stuff's at."

J.D. MARTIN: Pitching in relief of Mock, Martin actually got three innings of work. Like his predecessor, Martin allowed two runs but didn't issue a walk. He was much sharper last time out (throwing two scoreless innings in a split-squad game against the Marlins) but he's essentially pitched this spring the same way he did last season. Nothing he does blows you away, but he seems to get the job done a decent amount of the time. Needing to increase his innings count to four next time out, Martin may have to settle for pitching in a minor-league game, though Mock could end up doing that instead. "It's always better to start a game. You've got a routine and everything," Martin said. "But right now, it's tough to get everybody in."

MATT CAPPS: The club's new closer hasn't been particularly sharp in his first three appearances, allowing runs in each of them. But he wasn't totally to blame for his two earned runs today. Center fielder Justin Maxwell didn't get a good break on Jon Jay's fly ball to deep left-center, and the wind carried it beyond his reach. If Maxwell makes the play, Allen Craig's subsequent double doesn't make any difference and Capps emerges unscathed. But he's not overly concerned at this point, especially when he's only pitching one inning every two or three days. "You want to pitch every day, but you can't do that," Capps said. "There's a lot of guys here that have got to get their work in. That's the program. It's still early. As it goes on, get into every-other-day, throw back-to-back days, throw two innings, throw three innings at some point and go from there. Right now is wearing things down and getting the feel back, and then the last two weeks or so I'll try to dial it in."

In today's Strasburg-related news...

Rizzo said the rookie right-hander's impressive performance Tuesday against the Tigers didn't change his feelings about the club's plan for him moving forward. In other words, he's still probably not making the Opening Day rotation.

"I've got a plan in place for him," Rizzo said. "And regardless of what he did yesterday and what he does in the future here in spring training, it's not going to change my plans. It was really good to see how happy he was to be on the mound pitching. I think that's where he's most at home and most comfortable, to be pitching on the mound. The refreshing thing to me to watch yesterday was the mature focus and preparation that he gave to that start. I didn't expect anything less, but it was fun to see it put into fruition."

Asked what that plan is, Rizzo responded with a smile: "I'm not going to tell you what the plan is."

Hey, you still gotta try.


Sunderland said...

So mark, doesn't Rizzo have to start releasing pitchers and get down from 37 pitchers to 25 pitchers so the people that are likely to make the active roster are getting their work in.
All these arms are nice when it comes to giving us options, but it's getting in the way of properly preparing our team for April.

How many pitchers do other teams have in their camps?

Oscar Sodani said...

Who do you see as the first cuts?

Anonymous said...

"Neither Mike Rizzo nor Jim Riggleman is concerned about the Nationals' 0-8 record this spring."

They're lying.


Positively Half St. said...

Mark- I am sure you have seen a sharp drop in comments the last few days, as we fans step away for a day or two in disgust at another winless stretch. We'll be back.

Anonymous said...

Just my two-cents worth, but I'd think that Atilano, Jaime, & Martis get optioned sooner rather than later, and that Estes, Guardado, & Peralta catch the 're-assigned to minor-league camp' notifications soon enough. Walker & Burnett are more problematic, because they're out of options.


natsfan1a said...

Technically, I believe that the Indians are 5-0 now.

Speaking only for myself, I'm not stepping away in disgust or otherwise. Heck, the regular season hasn't even started yet.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Sunderland: The roster will definitely shrink either later this week or early next week. They've got to pare things down soon, certainly before the next turn around the rotation. I would expect most of the cuts to coming on the pitching side, particularly starters who need to be able to increase their innings count on the minor-league side instead of coming on in relief in big-league games.

Unknown said...

"Asked what that plan is, Rizzo responded with a smile: 'I'm not going to tell you what the plan is.'"

Are you sure that was Rizzo and not Kasten? I'd sure love for somebody in this organization to actually show us "The Plan" instead of just talking about it over and over...

Ken said...

1) I know it's still way too early, but if Strasburg turns out to be the best starter in camp, not only should he make the opening day roster, but it would be almost criminal not to including him. If Strasburg is the best starter his not making the team would cause players to question the team's true agenda. That is a distraction that would in the long run effect their play, because if they think the team's agenda is about money and not winning, they would put out the same effort they might normally.

The players are tired of losing and if taking away someone who could potentially help improve the rotation distraction to the players who do. It would be unfair to the fans, the other players, and the team in general.

2) Rizzo and Riggleman saying that they're unconcerned about the team's 0-8 record, is a crock of bull. Coaches and members of the front office talk about the days events, as well as those leading up to the current day each and with throughout spring training. Only the most naive of fans actually believe their "spin".

Anonymous said...

"I know it's still way too early, but if Strasburg turns out to be the best starter in camp, not only should he make the opening day roster, but it would be almost criminal not to including him."

Couldn't disagree more. First, even if Strasburg is the best SP in camp, that doesn't exactly say much. Second, Strasburg is by far and away the best prospect in the Nationals system. They need to do what is best for him. I hope they follow the Tommy Hanson approach. Start him in the minors, and see how he does. If he pitches lights out, then bring him up, if not wait.

People forget that David Price was a heckuva prospect in his own right, and it's taken him a while to adjust to pitching in the majors.

I blame the team. If they hadn't cheaped out once again on adding SP, they wouldn't need to consider starting Strasburg.

Ken said...

I don't know if I should address any reply to "anonymous" or to Mr. Rizzo. You used, word for word, the same spin that fans have been hearing from Mike Rizzo from the beginning. No one is arguing that what's best for Strasburg is what should be done. I'm saying that, if Strasburg is the Nats best starting pitcher during spring training, shows he's equally as ready to pitch every five days in the Major Leagues as say, Marquis or Lannan, who are guaranteed spots in the rotation, then he should be part of the opening day roster. To do otherwise would be contrary to "his best interest" it would in fact be in the best interest of the Washington Nationals, not Stephen Strasburg's. A team, any team would have to be very narrow of vision to exclude a player from making their team because he's a "prospect".

Anonymous said...

"A team, any team would have to be very narrow of vision to exclude a player from making their team because he's a "prospect"."

You are missing the point. The short sighted view would be to sacrifice your long term gain for a short term one. I hate to break this to you, but the Nationals are not competing for a playoff spot this year. Or the year after. Or the year after that, unless ol' skin flint Lerner opens up his wallet.

What then is the point of NOT acting in the best interests of Strasburg? To win 68 instead of 66 games? Great! That'll definitely be worth it.

Bote Man said...

The Plan? There's a plan???

The only people talking (incessantly) about "The Plan" are fans and bloggers. This particular mention of "a plan" by Rizzo is the first time we've ever heard anything close to that phrase uttered by a member of the Front Office since the move to Washington.

I'm more inclined to believe the idea that contracts and financial considerations will dictate which players go north to D.C. and who goes elsewhere.

Anonymous said...


I know this is really, really late but I have my Jason Bergman question ready now.

"Do you still think that it can't get any worse?"


greg said...

i agree with anonymous. why start his clock early just to get him up to pitch for a team that would be happy to sniff 500? bring him up after he's had a chance to get his feet wet in the minors. if the nats were competing for a playoff spot and he could make a difference, that's a different story. but since we all know that's a pipe dream at best, do what makes the most sense for the future of the club.

and this isn't defending the nats front office. this is just basic baseball common sense and what any smart front office would do. don't sacrifice another year of control for a couple of months of sucking a little less. that's penny wise and pound foolish.

peric said...

I think we have to look at this organizationally as opposed to just the big club as Rizzo might with weighted emphasis on the Big Club. Factor in the extended losing cycle.

My guess is that Olsen, Wang, and Flores end up at Harrisburg. In Potomac its Strasburg, Karns, Holder, Milone, in the starting rotation ... we'll see how that progresses. Strasburg, Karns and Holder are all flame throwers ... making that an interesting start of their season.

In Harrsiburg: Wang, Olsen, Flores, plus Thompson initially.

In Syracuse: Martis, Balester, Estes, Battista, Kown, Hernandez.
Walker, Villone, Storen [ Closer ], Wilkie, etc.

Anonymous said...

it can't get any worse but it can certainly last longer.


Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Spring trainin wins/losses is abosolutely not a predictive factor. The old Senators would sometimes have a "good" spring and than go back to their old ways. It seems to me that last Spring the NATS. won one or two more than they lost I could be wrong about that but they did win quite a few). How did that turn out? On the other matter, Strasburg needs to pitch in the minors, for a while, just to get used to the day to day routine of pitching on a professional club and in a five man rotation.

BaseballinDC said...

Agree with Sec 204...right now we're looking at a Giants / Rays WS based on spring records...anyone wanna place a bet on either of those as pennant winners?

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