Thursday, June 24, 2010

Offensive blame aplenty

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond has cooled off dramatically at the plate in the last month.
The Nationals' 1-0 loss to the Royals -- an excruciating affair played under sweltering conditions -- seemed to leave everyone in a sour mood. The crowd of 31,913, which included more than a few booing fans as the final out of the game was recorded. Stephen Strasburg, who shot down repetitive questions from national media members about the hype that surrounds his every move. And several players inside the clubhouse, who did little to hide their frustration in the wake of another narrow loss.

All of the ire, of course, was directed toward a Nationals lineup that is producing at minuscule levels these days.

Lest anyone need to be reminded, the Nats have now scored a whopping total of 20 runs over their last nine games. They haven't surpassed the four-run mark in any of those instances. During this just-completed, six-game homestand, they managed to twice lose 1-0 and a third time by a 2-1 count.

Pointed questions were asked after this latest loss, and the answers suggested a ballclub trying to convince itself everything is still OK.

"I hate to, and I won't, make excuses for anybody," Jim Riggleman said. "But sometimes you've got to tip your hat to the opposition. I'm not trying to rationalize too much, but we've run into a lot of well-pitched ballgames against us. I know that gets old saying that. I want to score runs more than anybody. But they just held us down."

Among the opposing pitchers who have dominated the Nats over the last week: Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia, Bruce Chen and Brian Bannister. We're not talking about Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez and Stephen Strasburg here.

No, the Nationals' prolonged funk at the plate seems to have more to do with the guys swinging the bat than the guys throwing the baseball. And there are no shortage of players who deserve blame for it.

Let's start at the top of the order, where Nyjer Morgan continues to struggle to get on base. Since June 3, the Nats' leadoff man is batting .197 with an abysmal .250 on-base percentage and a paltry .227 slugging percentage.

"We have a good offense on paper," teammate Josh Willingham said. "We've got to start from the top," Willingham said. "When Nyjer plays well, it helps our offense. We've just been really inconsistent."

No debating that point, but Morgan isn't the lone culprit here.

Over his last 25 games, Cristian Guzman is batting .245 with a .267 on-base percentage.

Ryan Zimmerman had the NL's highest OPS two weeks ago. Since then, he's hitting .167 with a .231 on-base percentage, two extra-base hits, three RBI and 18 strikeouts.

Adam Dunn continues to put up some nice numbers and ranks among the league leaders in homers and slugging percentage. But he also continues to fail miserably in the clutch, with one hit in 30 at-bats this season with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Willingham's production has tailed off some in recent weeks, and during the 1-0 loss he struck out three times while also failing to score from third when the Royals' infield was conceding the run.

"Sometimes you've got to find a way to win the game when you're not hitting," Riggleman said. "We've got to run the bases a little better and do some little things that will help us."

Ian Desmond's rose has lost some of its bloom; the rookie is 0 for his last 14, striking out seven times in that span and now owns a .286 on-base percentage.

And then there's Riggleman's preferred left-handed bat off the bench, Willie Harris, who flied out to left in this game to extend his hitless streak to 20 at-bats. Harris hasn't reached base since June 3 in Houston, a staggering run of offensive futility.

Put it all together, and you've got a recipe for disaster, even if Nationals players are reluctant to admit it.

"At the end of the year, our numbers will probably be the same as they always are," Zimmerman said. "But since we haven't scored in a week or so, that's what everybody asks about. Nobody asks about it when we're scoring six, seven, eight runs a game, and that's how it evens out. It's obviously frustrating. We want to do it all season, but it doesn't work out like that."

Actually, Zim, plenty of people noted it when you guys busted out and scored nine runs in Cleveland earlier this month. That's because it was the rare instance in which this lineup legitimately put up big numbers.

Otherwise, the Nats' offensive production has been putrid for a while now. This team is averaging less than 3.3 runs per game in June. Is it any wonder the club's record this month is 7-14?

Players and coaches are obviously frustrated. They have a right to be, especially after squandering another pitching performance from Strasburg that should have been good enough to win.

But the answer to what ails the Nationals at the plate isn't to convince yourself everything will be OK in the long run. It's time for these guys to admit their flaws and attempt to do something about it.

Strasburg has refused to throw his offensive teammates under the bus for the lack of support he's gotten his last two times on the mound. But if this keeps up, it's going to be more and more difficult for the young right-hander to shoulder the load himself when, in fact, the blame deserves to be spread across the Nats' clubhouse.


Anonymous said...

You have to fire Riggleman. We just need a more intelligent manager that can put together a decent lineup card.

JayB said...

I agree with those who are saying it is time to fire Riggleman. Freddy Garcia would be an instant upgrade. It will not happen I know UNTIL Oct....No way Riggs is back next year. Wrong guy for any team that expects to win more than 80 games. Rizzo only gave him a 1 year deal and sadly that is because Rizzo never tried to win more than 80 games this year. Now....lucky not to lose 90

dale said...

Firing Riggleman will produce what? Two more runs a game? That's some fantasy world people are living in. I feel as frustrated as most watching Nyjer abuse the term "lead off hitter". Sure, blame Riggleman for a team of hitters that fail to even make contact. How many options are there for Riggleman to play?
We have no outfielders and no infielders in the minors that are having the kind of season that demands that they be brought up to the majors.
This is a frustrating team to watch and probably an even more frustrating team to manage. You can see how Rizzo can freely move the pitchers up and down the organization because he at least has more tools to use. When it comes to position players to switch around the tool box is empty.

Anonymous said...

Strasburg not only pitched brilliantly as always, he got one of the Nats' six hits. No way he can possibly blame this one on him tonight--even the 9 hits were just the result of bad luck on balls in play, since after last night his BABIP has ballooned to .358 and it was at like .250 before. I like his attitude in saying that sometimes his team will bail him out with offense when he's not sharp, and he's probably right that it will balance out eventually, but I almost wish he would go back to getting visibly upset at an under-performing offense / defense like he apparently used to in college. Maybe a few fastballs to the butt would get the offense in shape... or maybe Rizzo has to send some players down to add some accountability like he has with the pitching staff.

Richard in BB said...

Great article Mark! I've been following Washington Baseball since Griffith Stadium days and I can't recall any team more frustrating than this one!Hitting with RISP is a huge problem with these guys--baserunning is very shakey(could partly be the 3rd base coach's fault).On top of that we've gotten some of the VERY WORST calls I've ever witnessed in all my years of watching this game!Last nite cost us another win--we never seem to get close calls at 1st base ,and the Houston fiasco was the worst.I'm not sure what to do--but maybe a tougher manager would help right this sinking ship!!

NatsJack in Florida said...

It's simple. You put your BEST 8 players in the lineup EVERY day (and that means Benandina in CF and Morse in RF)for two weeks and let the chips fall where they may.

If after 2 weeks you have the same miserable results you start shipping guys out, make trades, bring up kids, anything necessary to impress upon everyone that management will NOT accept a losing environment.

It sickens me that the club chokes EVERY time they get a great crowd. Check their record of games with crowds of over 30,000. What kind of fan base can expect to build when you spit the bit when people actually show up!

Anonymous said...

Offense B A D but as Denny Green says Rey are who we thought they were! Let's start from the top:

Morgan was having a career year last year, got hurt and has not been the same since, bottomline upgrade from Milledge.

Guz is Guz nothing more nothing less, heck he even homered and walked in the same game.

Zim is much like Lannan a star when the team had no stars but like a polar bear he looks a bit yellow against newly fallen snow! He is .260 guy with decent power but he strikes out too much to be more than a #5 or#6 guy on a real team.

Dunn, he is Dunn-key, while improved on defense his offense is lacking although I think he is a victim of a good hitter being pitched around due to his anemic counterparts.

Willingham has always been a streaky guy but solid most days

Pudge might be slumping but heck we have no alternatives his offense equals the output of ten Nieves' and 5 Flores combined!!

Desmond is a not so young rookie who is showing he is te same hitter he was in the minors a BAD one!! Pitchers have figured him out and are exploiting him..calling Mr Espinosa!!!

Bernadina is a bright spot good hitter and learning

The bench do not even get me started, we have better hitters in AAA.

Anonymous said...

I think that Riggleman is managing himself out of games. Why is he sending Willie Harris up as our PH!?!?! He's hitting a pathetic .152. Why not give Morse a chance, since he's had a hot bat? Even Alberto Gonzalez would be a better choice coming off the bench. I fear that Riggleman is becoming loyal to a fault. Last night, since Guzman wasn't playing he could have come in to PH - even he's hitting better than Harris.Mix it up a bit - at the very least it can't get worse.

Richard said...

I was at the game. In addition to great pitching (Strausberg and bullpen) and horrendous hitting and baserunning (don't forget Willingham tripping over second base and Bernadina's freezing in the base path), the defense was also very poor. Desmond was awful at short, failing to make several plays that should have been made. Also the failure to lay down a sac bunt also contributed to the failure to score runs. It was an awful spectacle.

pauloyd said...

Zim is a .260 guy with decent power? Are you insane? Zimmerman is one of the top 25 players in the game, who also happens to be in a slump. Nothing like Texeira's slump to start the year, but a slump. I get the Riggleman debate and the Morgan and Guzman complaints. I get the Dunn with 2 outs and RISP complaints mostly. (Although I count a runner on first in scoring position with Dunn at the plate). But Zimm? Seriously?

Anonymous said...

Bunting on this team is atrocious. There are only a couple of guys who can lay down a decent bunt when needed. Zimmerman being probably the best of the lot, yet ironically he is a guy you never want to see bunting. The rest of them - especially all the pitchers, save Livo - are terrible. Yet Riggleman insists on playing small ball, and we see botched sacrifices like yesterday's, or even bunting into double plays. Either Riggleman needs to abandon his small ball approach because he doesn't have the players to make it work, or he needs to coach those players up to where they can do the things they need to do, like bunting and smart baserunning. Yet, inexplicably he does neither. All he does is worry about getting guys like Willie Harris enough at bats. Perhaps there's a reason why among all managers with at least ten years of service, Jim Riggleman's record is by far the worst.

Anonymous said...

One could blame the offense as we are doing here but one could also fear for the future with Strasburg, NINE hits allowed to a bad team, sure they did not score but that is because the Royals are one of the worst teams in the AL...if Jose Guillen can OWN you like he did yesterday (somehwhere Frank Robinson was grniing from ear to ear at his warrior's accomplishment), imagine what the premier hitters in the National League can do. I think the problem is and will be that Strasburg throws too many strikes..YES naive basball fans that can be a BAD thing. If a good hitter knows he is going to see a strike he can and will hit it, great pitchers make a living on the edges of the zone, Strasburg is NOT doing this, he needs to locate better on the edges of the zone. NOW I am not advocating he become Nolan Ryan and walk almost as many as he strikes out but much of Nolan's success came because hitters did not know if a ball or stike was coming next so they were off balance and subsequently overmatched by his power...young Strasburg has much to learn!

A DC Wonk said...

Let's also not forget Bernadina blowing a bunt that cost us a run, too.

So -- yep -- baserunning and sacrificing still stink.

And I agree with Anony@8:29 -- it's either Strasburg's fault or Pudge's fault that he gave up two consecutive hits on 0-2 counts on pitches that were over the outside part of the plate and the batter simply went the other way with them and drove them to right field. The game winning hit that Guillen got was a solid line drive to right.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Kansas City is the leads the American League in hitting! Jose Guillen has a twenty game hitting streak.

Where the heck do you (Anonymous)do you get your information?

LoveDaNats said...

Do you wonder if Eckstein comes out unscathed? Or will he be the sacrifice to the baseball gods?

Anonymous said...

Mike Morse must have slept with Riggleman's wife. There is no other explanation why he is not playing everyday.

Anonymous said...

I share everyone's frustration. So I'll pile on. How on earth does a guy as speedy (so they say)as Roger Bernadina get thrown out at the plate on a single hit to deep right field. It should not matter how hard the ball was hit or how strong the throw was. It seem to me that he got a late start running and that he was not running full speed. How can that happen when we are starving for runs?

KGWCoach said...

Bernadina's base running gave Strasburg his first loss. He was a spectator on the base path, not a base runner.

He should have been to third on Zimm's hit to right, he barely made it to second!

The play at the plate should not even have been close. He had a bad break from second on the hit and never really got it into gear. I've seen 10 year old Little leaguers who have better base runner sense than he's shown.

It's amazing how many players get to the Major leagues, that have NO understanding of how to run the bases.

A DC Wonk said...

How on earth does a guy as speedy (so they say)as Roger Bernadina get thrown out at the plate on a single hit to deep right field.

Two reasons:

1. He didn't have a big enough lead. Adam Dunn was up, and they had the "big shift" on, which gave Bernadina lots of room to take a huge lead, but he took an average lead (I was at the game complaining to my wife about this at the time)

2. A bad call? I couldn't see, but it sure looked like he was safe by two feet from where I was seated -- I mean, it didn't even look close to me. (I haven't seen any replays yet)

A DC Wonk said...

Does Boswell read the comments? ;-)

Here's what I wrote, from my iPhone, at 5:48pm from the game when KC scored their run:

Does anybody think Stras throws too many strikes? I think the last two singles cane on 0-2 pitches that were over the outside of the plate?

Nobody responded to that comment, but here's what Boswell wrote this morning:

But the kid can still improve. He lost this game, rather than leaving it 0-0, because he simply threw too many strikes -- especially at the wrong the fifth inning, it cost him. With one on and two outs, he got quick 0-2 counts on the Royals' 4-5 hitters, Billy Butler and José Guillén. That's the time to expand the plate and get 'em to chase. Yet Strasburg threw back-to-back strikes to both Butler and Guillén. A soft single by Butler, then a line hit by Guillén produced the only run.

I oughtta be a sportswriter! (Or, rather, Mark, you should feel good that Bos reads this blog ;-) )

(But I'm still trying to learn -- were those pitches Stras's fault, or Pudge's?)

Richard said...

I understand the concern with the number of hits given up by Strausberg, but if you watched the game, a number of those hits would not have been hits with any other team. There were several misplays and just bad plays that did not amount to (or at least were not scored as) errors, but which should have been made. Also, he did not give up an extra base hit or walk a batter. With better fielding it would have been a 4 or 5 hit outing. There is nothing wrong with that.

A DC Wonk said...

I understand the concern with the number of hits given up by Strausberg, but if you watched the game, a number of those hits would not have been hits with any other team.

You're right -- but -- OTOH, there was at least one out that would have been a hit against other teams. Desmond showed terrific range reaching a grounder that went almost right over second base, and throwing the guy out by a step. Zim made a semi-tough play, too, on the very next batter.

With a runner in scoring position and two outs, the outfield made one (or two?) nice plays, too.

The fielding cut both ways in this game.

And, fwiw, the game winning hit (on an 0-2 count!) was a solid line drive to right that was very well hit.

HHover said...

Dale - The frustration with Riggs is that he isn't using his roster as fully and effectively as he ought to. He seems determined to keep making the same managerial mistakes over and over again--I don't know if it's pig-headedness, lack of imagination, what.

Most egregiously, he's treating "leftie batter vs a rightie pitcher" as if it's one of the 10 commandments. But there's no point in sending up a lefted handed PH if your only leftie on the bench isn't evening hitting his weight. Morse is hitting both LHP and RHP better than Willie, and there's no excuse for not giving him a shot in these game-on-the-line situations. Riggs doesn't set the roster, but there are clearly ways to get more out of it than this.

Mark's headline is right--there's offensive blame aplenty. And a good bit of it belongs to Riggs.

Doc said...

Instead of commenting on bad luck, or the great games thrown by opposing pitchers with baloon ERAs, Riggleman needs to look at his own managerial weaknesses in running the offense. The way he ignores Morse is inexcusable, same for the way he reinforces Morgan. He's clincially deluded.

Anonymous said...

Morse is not too bright, a rocks for jocks type guy, so I am sure while the physical tools are there that the mental ones might not be, therefore Riggs keeps him on the bench.

HHover said...

Anon @ 10:02 - What advanced mental tools are necessary to pinch hit? The only mental lapse Morse could commit that would make him worse than an 0-20 hitter is to forget to walk up to the plate.

I'm not part of the crowd that thinks Morse is an everyday player, but he's clearly a decent option off the bench, for the occasional start and for PH'ing. Riggs refusal to use him in that way makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

The Royals have the 3rd worst record in the AL, only houston, Pittsburgh and Arizona are as bad in the NL!!! True the Royals are leading the majors in team BA, but their OBP is 11th and their SLG is 17th, XBH is 22nd, and OPS is 15th, not exactly world beaters. Add KC to the list of horrible teams that Strasburg has faced. Let's see what he does against Atlanta next week!

Anonymous said...

Some people really need to get a grip.

Seriously 9 singles and one run? I fear what those people will start saying when Stras has his first real implosion (it WILL happen.) Roy Halladay routinely has a 10 hit-2walk-2 er or something game, Ubaldo routinely has a 7it-5walk-1er game. Hanson got shelled a couple of days ago for like 10 runs in 2 innings.

Stras is striking out guys who do not strike out. Stras is not walking anyone. I'm pretty sure the BABIP for the royals yesterday was around .500 when Stras was pitching and they were most DEFINATELY NOT hitting line drives all over the field to justify anything even close to that number.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is the crazy rate at which the team is swinging at the first pitch. I don't see anyone on this team work the count. I mean take a pitch now and then. Morgan may be the worst offender. I've seen him ground out or lazy fly out on the first or second pitch way too often. Make the starting pitcher work a bit. Get a good pitch to drive.

Anonymous said...

"True the Royals are leading the majors in team BA, but their OBP is 11th and their SLG is 17th, XBH is 22nd, and OPS is 15th, not exactly world beaters. Add KC to the list of horrible teams that Strasburg has faced"

So what has Stras done that is so problemetic?

Leads MLB in BA: Stras gave up a lot of hits
OPS is 15th: Stras did not walk anyone
SLG is 17th: Stras only gave up singles
XBH is 22nd: Stras did not give up a single XBH hit.

So what is the problem here? KC is a BA heavy team that does not walk, does not hit for power, does not score.

Stras gave up hits, did not walk any, did not get hit for power, and was barely scored on. What point were you trying to make? anon 2 posts above?

TimDz said...

Didn't see the game yesterday, as I was at work, but I did see the replay of Roger getting thrown out at the plate.
For the record, I see that as a blown call... it was close, but a blown call nonetheless.
That being said, it shouldn't have been that close. If you watch the replay, Roger, after making the turn at 3rd LOOKED OVER TO RIGHT FIELD!!!
In little league, kids are taught to look at the 3rd base coach and then watch the next batter (who will give the "slide" singnal or the "stand up" signal.
He looked to slow down as his gaze went to right field. If he had just put his head down and ran, the play would not have been remotely close.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time we started putting the blame where it belongs and stop believing our own hype? Preseason, Las Vegas had the Nats playing about .450 ball, and that's about what they're doing. Like any .450 ball club, sometimes they're terrific, sometimes they stink, but firing this guy, trading that guy, and benching the other guy really isn't going to fix the fact that this is a .450 ball club who is not going to contend for anything this year. Let's enjoy the games this season, with an eye towards a full, healthy pitching staff, a couple of up-and-comers, and a real right fielder next season. If they're still playing like this, THEN it's time for heads to roll. You just can't beat averages over the long haul.

A DC Wonk said...

Some people really need to get a grip.

I think you're overreacting -- or, rather, think that other's are overreacting. Strasburg pitched a great game. But he didn't have his best stuff (was this the first game where he didn't reach 99mph?), and he made at least one rookie mistake which resulted in a run being scored.

But we also all know he pitched a great game. But he didn't pitch a "brilliant game" which we know he's capable of at any moment.

Anonymous said...

Here's another thing.....I am concerned that Riggleman seems to be managing by a rigid formula. If we are ahead late in the game, our best hitter (Dunn) gets benched. Relief pitchers only pitch one (maybe two) innings regardless of good performance. Good relievers (Storen, Clip) are only used if we are ahead even if game is close. Baseball isn't a simple game. The Manager needs to more creative.

Anonymous said...

I like Riggs, but Mark is right: it's not a "well-pitched" ballgame just because our guys can't hit the ball. Brian Bannister was awful coming into yesterday's game. I think they said he gave up 16 earned runs over his last two starts. The "we just ran into some good pitching" excuse is starting to wear thin. It looks like Dunn, Zim, and Willingham are trying to swing for the fences too much. Too many upper cut swings that they are either getting over or under on.

court said...

Bad baserunning cost the Nats the game. Period. Bernadina should have been on 3rd when Dunn came up, plus he hesitated on contact in addition to not getting a big lead. While the call was bad, the play should not have been close. And there is no excuse for Willingham not to score when the infield is conceding the run. Should have been a 2-1 victory, plain and simple. But it's time to shake up the lineup (and DFA Harris so Riggs can't use him).

Bernadina CF
Desmond SS (he'll get more fastballs here than at the bottom of the order)
Morse RF
Guzman/Kennedy 2B

Hell, I might even have Morse take some groundballs at 2B. It's not like Guz and Kennedy are Joe Morgan out there. He did come us as a SS.

If he can hold his own there then:

Bernadina RF
Desmond SS
Morse 2B
Morgan CF (he can run all he wants with the P coming up, but he's stealing RBI's from the heart of the order as much as he's getting thrown out)

Having two rookies lead off isn't ideal, but it's time to try something different.

Anonymous said...

The guy gives up one run and either loses or gets a no decision. I guess next time he just needs to pitch a perfect game, and hit a home run.

Anonymous said...

On the Bernadina play at the plate: With the shift on he had to stop and make sure the line drive didn't have enough top spin to be caught by the very deep 2B. That is just baseball. If he takes off on contact and the 2B catches it, he gets doubled off, and you guys crucify him for that. The kid did what he was supposed to do and scored on the play. The ump missed the call and then missed the strike 3 call on the Hammer.

I think this bolg and it's comments are a product of expectations. This team played over their heads for the first month or 2 of the season and we all started thinking they were contenders. But with a pitching staff as thin as ours and a line-up with streaky guys everywhere, it is going to always be feast or famine. Until we get 1 or 2 more consistent SP and 1 or 2 more high AVG, high OPS guys it is going to be a struggle to survive with the likes of the Braves and the Phils.

Anonymous said...

I still can't believe that Riggleman couldn't find enough motivation to get off his ass and argue the Bernardina call at home plate, which was clearly a blown call. That kind of passive managing did Manny Acta in in DC and Riggleman is going down the same road. This team is sleepwalking. Even Zimmerman plays in a very nonchalant manner, often laughing all the way back to the dugout after one of his many strikeouts in a clutch situation. If the manager doesn't care, why should the players care??

A DC Wonk said...

Good relievers (Storen, Clip) are only used if we are ahead even if game is close.

That makes sense -- and, further, the other relievers are good, too.

Many smart managers have two "sets" of releivers. You have your first string for hwne you're ahead or sometimes tied (Storen, Clipp, Capps), and a second string for when you're behind but close (Burnett, Slaten), and then "mop up / innings eater guys", (Batista, Walker). It's a good set up, a good plan, and, we have the right guys for it.

Let's not forget, Burnett and Slaten both have ERA's under 2.70 -- that ain't chopped liver!

Phil Dunn said...

Here is my report card after 73 games---

Morgan D-
Willimingham B-
Bernardina B+
Morse B+
Harris F
Dunn B+
Guzmann C
Kennedy F
Desmond C+
Zimmerman C
Pudge B+
Nieves D-
Hernandez B
Lannan D-
Atilano C
Martin C+
Strasburg A
Capps C
Clippard A
Storen B
Slaten C+
Burnett C-
Walker C-
Batista D

Mark said...

On the play at the plate - awful baserunning by Bernadina. He doesn't need to check to see if the ball went through the shift - he needs to be looking forward at the 3B coach - who will tell him if the ball went through or not.

If you watch the replay, you can see Bernadina slow down rounding third as he looks to his left to find the ball, and not to his right to see the 3b coach windmilling him home. In fact, Bernadina is checking RF after seeing that the 3B coach is sending him home. Terrible.

If I was Riggleman, Bernadina would be practicing running from 2B to Home with the 3B Coach stopping him and sending him til he gets the message; there's no excuse for these kind of fundamental mistakes.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

Court, thanks for the comment on Morse at 2B. I was beginning to think I was crazy. People are constantly saying he needs more ABs, and he can play anywhere. There's all this talk about put him in RF and move Bernie to center, play him at 1B/3B to give the starters a day off, etc. etc. But despite all of the Guzie-Kennedy bashing (not saying I agree or disagree, but it's there), NO ONE has mentioned putting him in at 2B!! Can he really play every single position EXCEPT 2B? Come on, give it a try!

Anonymous said...

Why the hell is Morse not playing? What is he being saved for? This Willie Harris automatic out thing is getting to be ridiculous.

Riggleman's explanation for allowing Strasburg to hit in the bottom of the sixth was comical. I think that he is in over his head.

People are bitching about the call at home where Bernadina was called out. If whoever was on deck had done his job and signaled for him to slide to the 3ed base side of the plate it would not have been close. But Bernadina should have known that already. Any ball hit to the right fielder is going to result in a thrown to the 1st base side of the plate or on the plate so you do not slide directly into the plate.

But well-coached teams already know that.

Anonymous said...

My $0.02 -- I'm in agreement that Morgan should hit 8th. And I want to see Zimm hit just above him for a couple of games. I'm no fan of Morse -- dunno if he can do it every day -- but put him in Zimm's three or four slot. If Riggleman doesn't send a message very soon to the suffering fans -- like me -- that he sees the same mess that we do, I'll join the chorus here calling for his dismissal.

Anonymous said...

The grading above -- Guzman is an A in my book, grading on this curve. As is Clippard. C is too high for Zimm. He's really disappointed in the last few weeks or months.

I think the only players on the roster -- based on the last month or so -- that could be on anyone's roster are Guzman, Willingham, and Clipard. Oh, and Strasberg.

DCJohn said...

It's not time to push the panic button, not after the last two years. I expect some dramatic changes in July, mayber as early as the Atlanta series. Personnally, I think Desmond's problem is that he's batting to low in the order. We'll see how the Baltimore series goes. There is still time to recoup.

Bowdenball said...


I'd be curious to know why Willingham only garners a B-. They guy's eleventh in the entire National League in OPS. He could be on his way to a 30 HR season. And he won a huge game and series against our Beltway rivals with an extra-inning walkoff.

Although defense is a little more subjective, he's certainly exceeded my expectations. I don't remember a single big gaffe, and it feels like his range has been better than a lot of us would have though.

I disagree with several of your grades- Zimmerman as a C when he's tenth in the league in OPS and generally considered the best 3B around is puzzling too- but that's a real mystery to me. He's an A in my book.

Michael Morse said...

What do I have to do to get some playing time? Hit .150 for a couple of months and get picked off of first 25% of the time?

Anonymous said...

@Bowdenball - I'm okay with the Zimm grade above [although I'd have gone lower.] From one's best [supposedly, that is] players, one is entitled to expect a lot. Do you think any pitcher is quaking when Zimm strides to the plate with runners on? Not exactly. And look for one shaky throw at least in each game.

Anonymous said...

Agree with comments on Bernadina's poor baserunning. Turning to find ball while rounding 3B has to be the worst. This guy spent--what?--7 years in our farm system and never learned/was taught how to run the bases? Incredible. And let's not Josh slide (no pun intended) either. Despite what the TV crew said yesterday, he has to score on Kennedy's grounder.

Anonymous said...

Mark - are you in a position to comment on Riggleman's viability?

Doc said...

A good lead off hitter tries to work the count. He does it to get on, and he also does it so the other guys in the lineup can judge the opposing pitchers' stuff.

Nyjer Morgan does none of thant.

Anonymous said...

Michael Morse said...
What do I have to do to get some playing time?

Change your name back. The way it is now, Riggleman thinks playing you would mean taking ABs away from Willie Harris, Adam Kennedy, Alberto Gonzales AND Mike Morse. You're never gonna beat out all those guys.

Bowdenball said...

Anonymous 12:44:

Quaking over the course of the last 2-3 weeks? No.

But quaking over the course of the season? Absolutely. He remains, even at what I hope is the end of his slump, one of the most productive hitters in the National League. His OPS numbers this year are the best of his career- his relatively low RBI total is mostly a product of batting third behind two guys who couldn't find first base with a GPS and a seeing-eye dog. And he is a great defender- you may remember a shaky throw a game, but you're remembering wrong. And he makes a ton of plays others wouldn't, as well.

Bottom line- great hitter having of his great seasons despite his recent struggles, as great as ever in the field. All that is overshadowed by a three-week slump that makes him a "C" player? It's a long season, you know. I promise you, he's gonna slump again. And so will Strasburg, I bet. Heck, Jiminez got lit up like a Xmas tree last night. Pujols has had slumps worse than Zimm's right now. If what Zimm is going though right now makes him a C player ... hate to say it, but maybe baseball isn't the right sport for your temperment?

Sec$39.99 said...

I've never seen that, and from what I have seen (and I've been watching), he looks pretty ticked to me. I have a hard time crediting that.

Anonymous said...
Even Zimmerman plays in a very nonchalant manner, often laughing all the way back to the dugout after one of his many strikeouts in a clutch situation.
June 24, 2010 10:59 AM

Sec$39.99 said...

Phil, nothing personal, but who cares?
Base it on something, at least.
Phil Dunn said...
Here is my report card after 73 games---

Bowdenball said...

Sec$39.99- Isn't that what the comments section here is for?

Phil, don't take my critiques of your grades, Willingham's in particular, as a critique of your decision to post them. I appreciate your taking the time to offer it up. It's a good conversation piece.

Mac G said...

Roger B had a bad bunt but why are the Nats giving up that out in the 6th inning only down a run? There was a guy on first and no outs. Both batter and hitter are speedy guys too. I was at game and noticed Bernie look back at the ball while rounding 3rd, instead of his coach. I hope this base running mistake was addressed by the coach and should be something that Nats media should ask. That slowing up cost us a run, unless Jim Joyce Jr. would have called him out anyway.

The Nationals are really spoiling a good run of pitching with this craptastic offense. Rizzo and Riggs better make some moves. Morgan needs benched or not hitting lead off. It is just asinine he continues to get some much playing time.

CoverageisLacking said...

Nyjer Morgan is horrible. They've got to get him out of the lineup and see what Bernadina/Morse combo can do.

Even in the rare instances when he does get on base, the guy is worthless. Take the 6th inning yesterday--he draws a walk to lead off, and Riggs doesn't give him a chance to steal second against Jason Kendall? Instead, Riggs wastes Bernadina's AB by giving him the bunt sign on the first pitch.

Now, I'm not saying that Riggs *should have* given Nyjer the chance to steal second, since he is now horrible at stealing bases too. But if Nyjer can no longer be counted on even to steal a base in a key situation against one of the worst defensive catchers in the league, why is he leading off? What value does he add to the lineup?

Wombat-socho said...

I think Rizzo needs to call Riggleman into the office and read him the riot act. This is a team that doesn't need to be doing this small ball, bunt & steal crap. We have guys that can hit for power, we just need hitters that can get on base in front of them. Fire Harris and bring back Maxwell - at least Justin would take a walk and get on!

Post linked at Beltway Baseball.

Jim Riggleman said...

Hey, the starting pitching I got was a joke. And I can't bat for this guys, and they've been around long enough to know how to run the bases and bunt for goodness sakes. They're supposed to be pros. Plus the marketing department tells me that Zimm bats 3rd until he doesn't feel like it. And will someone PLEASE tell Tony Plush to loose that ridiculous wig, even if we don't need it much?

Bowdenball said...

Mac G:

I am standing and applauding you in my office right now.

SOMEONE needs to show Riggleman a basic Run Expectancy Matrix. Absolutely inexcusable for a baseball manager to make decisions that so clearly and demonstrably do not give his team the best chance of winning the baseball game.

Anonymous said...

Slow day on the Chico Harlan blog watch, Kevin?

K.D. said...

Just a thought, put Nyger in the ninth spot while he is struggling. This way he sees how other guys are getting pitched to before his first at bat. He only really bats leadoff in the first inning anyway. Jim Leyland used this idea for a while while Curtis Granderson was struggling. Put Guzman/Kennedy batting first with Pudge/Desmond second. Either way Riggs need to shake it up during this grind out part of the season. As far as SS goes, I thought he handled his press conference great and only got irritated when asked about his family and their reaction to all the hoopla around his starts.

alm1000 said...

I like Riggs, how he handles the pen especially but there is no excuse for not pinch hitting Morse instead of Harris. Why doesn't a "reporter" ask him this directly.
On the tag at home, from where he was he was blocked from the play - thats why he doesn't come running out when it happened. Then neither of the ase coaches or Bernadina for that matter argue the call. he's not a mind reader.
On the Willingham play where he didn't score. It was hit hard to the first baseman and if he goes, even on contact, he is out. Weren't there 0 or only 1 out, on that?
Bernadina's baserunning mistakes were bad.
The bats should come around, hopefully this weekend in Balmer.
Go Nats.

Anonymous said...

A few columns back, Boz wrote about this important period of time, when the NBA season was over, and football hasn't started, when the Nats would have the DC stage to themselves. Weak teams were coming in and we'd have this wonderful window of time to win a bunch of games and build the fan base.

Instead the team has laid egg after egg after egg. It's sickening.

As fans, we obviously don't know these players personally. We watch their performance, their demeanor, and listen to their comments, and then, based on our own personal and professional experiences, we draw conclusions. Here are mine:

As a general statement, it does not bother this team very much to lose a game. After losses, they express this calm, Zen-like sense of how it's just one game and how it's a long season, how things are sure to improve, etc. I believe if you went to a local rec center and watched pick-up basketball, you'd see guys, all playing for free of course, who care a lot more when they lose. Something is very wrong with the Nationals in this regard.

There's a story that Ted Williams heard his new Senators team griping about calls by umps, and said, "You'll never get those calls as long as you're a chickensh*t team." Well, that's what kind of team we are now. Also, when umps sense our indifference to losing, it makes it a lot easier for them to screw us on calls.

Nationals players also express tremendous patience and self-forgiveness for their individual failures on the field. Again, when talking about their lousy performance, they convey this Zen-like sense of "the sun shall rise again tomorrow, so forgive and forget today."

And then, the next day, the players individually and the team collectively make the same or worse mistakes again.

There's one man on this squad who carries the do-or-die attitude of the US Marines: Pudge. The rest are inoffensive, breezy, nice, easygoing, well-balanced men who are never going to get too upset about not winning something as insignificant as one game in a 162-game season.

Teams that win at the professional level are pit bulls. The Nationals are Labrador Retrievers.

phil dunn said...

Bowdenball--I gave Willingham a B- because his hitting is too streaky for my tastes. He hot, then he's cold. Further, his dumb base running yesterday didn't help his rating.

Kamir Aminute said...

Not Riggleman. Lannan was one good move. Harris has to be next.

phil dunn said...

"Sec$39.99 said...
Phil, nothing personal, but who cares?
Base it on something, at least."

I based my ratings on what I have observed going to about 15 games and watching the rest on TV. Regarding Zimmerman, the other night when he struck out four times in four at bats, he laughed all the way back to the dugout after the fourth strikeout. I saw it on TV and would have benched him if I was managing the team. Zimmerman is his own worst enemy. He always takes the first pitch right down the heart of the plate--for a strike. Almost every time he bats, he's behind on the count, eight 0-2 or 1-2. He needs to learn how to work the count; he needs to stop swinging at low outside pitches and he needs to start swinging at good pitches.

Kamir Aminute said...

And drop Nyjer to 8th. He can do better, we've seen it.

Ron In Reston said...

While you're explaining, Phil...explain to me how the major league leader in saves warrants a C. He had a tough week or so, which is behind him. He makes the ninth inning adventuresome sometimes....but he gets the job done, something we haven't had since 2005. I don't see him as "average" by any stretch. I have some issues with others as well, like Morgan getting only a D- while Kennedy gets an F, but the Capps grade was my biggest question.

A DC Wonk said...

alm1000 -- good comments. Willingham, indeed, may have gotten thrown out at home if he had gone, and Riggs is, I think, managing the bullpen pretty darn well (although I'd rather see Clippard get top billing than Capps) -- and you're right that Riggs had the worst angle on the home plate call in the stadium.

But, like others, I'm starting to tire of seeing Morgan and Harris as much as we do.

greg said...

wow, if you can have a 900+ OPS (top 20 in MLB), hit around 290 and be relatively close to a 400 OBP (top 30), 13 HRs (top 20) and be considered one of (if not the) best defensive 3B in the game only gets you a "C", what do you need to get an A?

btw, all of those ranked numbers are top 3-4 at his position, too. oh, and there are 10 3Bs in baseball with more Ks than zimmerman, too.

giving zimmerman a "C" is like saying pujols isn't a great 1B, maybe he gets a "B". or that strasburg gave up 9 singles yesterday, so i'll grade him out as a B- so far.

Anonymous said...

DC wonk what an idiot! Now you want Strasburg to nibble at the outside corner! He only allowed 1 run, nibbling around the strike zone is a habit that Nats pitcher's had last year! Walks kill this team! I do hope Stras does not listen to such morons!

NattyLite said...

The inferences that some people are drawing from the fact that Zimmerman laughed as he walked back to the dugout on Saturday are absolutely ridiculous. Anyone who watches him play can tell that he actually cares about winning. He has been one of the few bright spots on awful teams the past couple of years, yet, as far as I can recall, has never thrown his teammates under the bus. Did you ever think that maybe he was "laughing" because he was frustrated with himself and/or the ridiculous strike zone on Saturday?

Also, while I appreciate the conversation piece that the grades have become, the fact that Guzman and Zimmerman received the same grade suggests to me that you should never go into teaching.

HHover said...

Anon @3:12 - Calm down and pay attention--you sound like Dibble last night in his dustup with Ray Knight.

The question is about throwing a ball on an 0-2 or 1-2 count, not a 3-2 count. It's not a bad way to get an overeager hitter (or one simply trying to protect the plate) to chase and strike out, or hit weakly into an out.

Strasburg has had all of 4 games in the majors. It doesn't take anything away from him to say that he still might have something to learn about major league hitters and how to adjust to them.

Anonymous said...

Riggleman's to blame for this loss and a bunch of others with his "trying to get guys at bats" philosophy. This isn’t Little League, it's the National league! Guys will get at bats by pinch hitting which happens way more often than in the American league. They'll also get at bats when a starter needs a day off and when there are injuries.

If you do have someone on the bench who is coming through like Morse .390/.457 and starter like Nyjer Morgan .244/.308 who is not, THEN you make a change. There is no (good) reason why Bernadina can't lead off and play CF and let Morse start in RF. Nyjer needs a break or some help to get back to form (and learn how to drag a bunt down the first base line). Playing everyday and contributing to a loss is not the way to work it out. You only do that with established veterans. This is Nyjer's first full year as a starter and teams are on to him. This is NOT a slump!

You’re lead off hitter is too important to let them keep failing in games that count.
Here’s Nyjer’s stats and how the Nat’s record has fallen with them.

April AVG/OBP .274/.374
Nat’s Record 13-10

May AVG/OBP .223/286
Nat’s Record 13-16

June AVG/OBP .224/.259 Nat’s Record 7-14

See a pattern?

Finally, if you’re going to put someone in for Guzman, and, you're trying to “get guys at bats”, why is Kennedy .235/.318 getting almost 3 times as many at bats (153) than Gonzalez .278/328 (54)?

JayB said...

Good Points here Mark.....I pointed out the problems in the OF over a month ago. The solution was clear then as it is now for the short term...BENCH MORGAN play Roger and Morse.

Mark, What are the your front office contacts saying about Riggs lineups? As we both know, off the record they say vastly different things than on the record. Can you give us a sense of what they really thing about the "run of Cy Young pitchers" the Nats have faced for about a month and how Riggs is sitting Morse?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 1:52 (and I think we should number the Anons so they can't write in and agree with themselves!)

Most of our guys would be happy if they could be in the hunt for a .500 season down the stretch. They are a very docile group, let by a quiet technocrat.

They are the only team in MLB I could not imagine participating in a brawl. If the opposing pitcher beaned Strasburg three straight times, I could see Zimm and Dunn and Guz all looking at their shoes, trying not to get involved, and telling reporters later that violence never solves anything.

The reason Dibble is so frustrated is he's never been around such a soft, passive, timid group of men before.

Their locker room doesn't need extinguishers, because there's never any fire.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anon @ 6:00. They're always so friendly with the other team. Dunn jawing and laughing at first base, Rodriquez slapping backsides with his buddies on the other team, etc. Sportsmenship is great but does this say something about their passion for winning? The only one I sense with such a passion is Desmond.

A DC Wonk said...

DC wonk what an idiot! Now you want Strasburg to nibble at the outside corner! He only allowed 1 run, nibbling around the strike zone is a habit that Nats pitcher's had last year! Walks kill this team!

And it's nice to meet you, too. No reason to call me names if you disagree.

In any event, Boswell said the same thing, and so did Guillen, who knows a whole lot more about pitching than you do.

When a guy can throw 17 straight strikes, when a guy can pitch 3 of his first 4 games without a single walk -- then we're not risking the ballgame by asking him to throw it a bit outside, or up and in, when the count is 0-2.

Did you ever hear the notion that when there's two strikes, the batter expands the strike zone? Well, the pitcher needs to expand it, too -- or else he'll let batter get hits on nice 0-2 pitches. Haven't you ever seen Zimmerman strike out on a bad two-strike pitch? That's what Strasburg needs to do to other batters every once in a while. I know it, Guillen knows it, Boswell knows it, and I'll bet you that Strasburg learned it yesterday or today.

A DC Wonk said...

Well, it turns out Strasburg already knows it. In fact -- I hadn't seen this earlier -- but this morning Nats Journal said this:

Riggleman said Strasburg tried to miss the plate on both pitches. On the fastball Guillen hit, Strasburg wanted to elevate and try to make Guillen chase. "Instead of just trusting it and throwing it to Pudge's glove, I pushed it a little bit," Strasburg said. "It ended up causing me to do the opposite. It wasn't a bad pitch, but he was on it."

I.e., Strasburg did try to "nibble", but he missed.

Steve M. said...


Anonymous said...

The season is 162 games long, the guys can't act like they are having fun? Good grief, that's why they play the "game" of baseball. Also, many have good friends on the teams they play against. If you are standing on first base why can't you acknowledge an old friend, and goof around a bit. I as a fan enjoy seeing that part of the game, and really like it if they show they are having fun. It isn't brain surgery.

Anonymous said...

Man, if you want to see the evidence of the "Who cares if we win?" organizational attitude, just watch the incestuous Nats-Orioles series on their media-master MASN this weekend.

Both organizations--players, coaches, broadcasters, owners--all agree to make nice-nice for the student-faculty game.

Why would a young Nationals player get the idea these games mean anything at all, when he sees all the happy coordination between the two losing organizations?

A DC Wonk said...

The season is 162 games long, the guys can't act like they are having fun?

I'm with you on this, Anon. Players work for years to not get too high with the good stuff and too low with the bad stuff. If you let your emotions control your actions, you mess up as a player. (I'm guessing that these are the same kind of complainers that said that Tony Dungee was too mellow to ever win big in the NFL, too). You have to learn from the mistakes of the past, and then move on, because you have another game to play the next day that requires the utmost concentration and the most difficult hand-eye coordination of any sport.

Anonymous said...

No one said they shouldn't have fun, which usually comes with winning. Should you be having fun when losing? If the team was successful, then nobody cares what they do or seem to do, but this team is 13 - 25 the last 38 games and has lost 100 two years in a row, as we know all too well. So you start to ask whether that seemly lets-have-fun, what me worry attitude is indicative of a deeper attitude, a lack of passion for winning, an acceptance of losing. But, yeah, if we make a mistake, I'd rather do it on the side of the Nats having fun.

natsfan1a said...

Uh, did you perhaps mean to type Fredi Gonzalez?


Freddy Garcia would be an instant upgrade.

natsfan1a said...

Alternatively, you could use a name or moniker so that we'll know which person is "talking" at any given time (although it's sometimes obvious when a given poster is writing because of syntax or, um, recurring themes/biases). If you don't want to associate the post with your blog or with an account, you could either use the Name/URL menu item and omit the URL, or you could use the Anonymous function but type in a moniker at the end of your post. Submitted fyi just in case none of the Anons were aware of these possibilities.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 1:52 (and I think we should number the Anons so they can't write in and agree with themselves!)

Doc said...

Mark, see if you can get Rick Eckstein to interview on the hitting situation. Bet he'll skirt around the Morgan/Morse discussion.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever hear the notion that when there's two strikes, the batter expands the strike zone? Well, the pitcher needs to expand it, too -- or else he'll let batter get hits on nice 0-2 pitches. Haven't you ever seen Zimmerman strike out on a bad two-strike pitch? That's what Strasburg needs to do to other batters every once in a while. I know it, Guillen knows it, Boswell knows it, and I'll bet you that Strasburg learned it yesterday or today.

CLEARLY you've never played the game. Now you are taking credit for things Guillen and Boz said? Dude what an ego you have? You throw strikes ... yes you locate pitches usually on the inside corner to jam the batters. You do not risk walking guys ... especially when your offense is clearly in a deep slump and funk. My God he wants Strasburg, Strasburg to learn to nibble? What a damned fool you are.

Anonymous said...

Fire Harris and bring back Maxwell - at least Justin would take a walk and get on!

Right now he is batting .140 MOSTLY AS A STARTER after 2 runs with the big club. That is still LOWER and WORST than Willie Harris. Maxwell makes a good Willie Tavares and even he was hitting better!!!

My god what fools ... how many chances do you give Maxwell? Morse barely gets at bats yet somehow manages to do the job? He rarely starts whereas with JMax, Riggleman can't wait to pencil him into the lineup once he arrives with the club. That shows a decided lack of focus and dedication to the job at hand on Maxwell's part.

NO, and NO AGAIN to JMax let him spend a year in Syracuse with NO SEPTEMBER call up please.

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