Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Opportunity squandered

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
None of the Nationals looked comfortable at the plate tonight.
ATLANTA -- On a night like this, when the Nationals couldn't touch Jair Jurrjens' rising fastball, scoring opportunities were at a real premium. So when one did finally present itself in the sixth inning at Turner Field, the Nats couldn't afford to squander it.

Of course, the way things have been going for the last month, you just had a feeling they'd find a way to miss out. And sure enough, when Ivan Rodriguez came to bat in the sixth with the bases loaded, nobody out and right-hander Peter Moylan fresh out of the Braves bullpen, that dreaded moment occurred.

Rodriguez took a hack at Moylan's first pitch and smacked it right at shortstop Yunel Escobar, who set in motion the 6-4-3 double play that all but killed any chance the Nationals had of winning this game.

"I think that's a good pitch to hit," Rodriguez said. "In that situation, with guys like that who throw sidearm, they're very difficult to pick up the ball. Sometimes, you've got to jump early, and the first pitch he throws for a strike you've got to make a swing at it. That's what I did. I hit it hard, right at him."

There's no sense debating hitting philosophy with a guy who may become the first catcher in history to join the 3,000-hit club, so you have to give Pudge the benefit of the doubt here. But the squandered opportunity did expose one of this team's biggest weaknesses: They don't give themselves very many chances to score runs, and when they do, they often fail to produce.

The margin for error with this team is razor-thin. Thus, there have been plenty of games like tonight's 4-1 loss to Atlanta sprinkled throughout this season. It was a winnable game, but the Nats didn't do what was needed to win it.

True, they faced an opposing starter in Jurrjens who looked like a dominant ace, not a guy making his return from a two-month stint on the DL. But they also chased a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, especially high fastballs, leading to an astounding 12 strikeouts.

The Nationals also didn't get a good enough performance out of their starting pitcher. J.D. Martin was by no means terrible -- he wound up allowing three runs over five innings -- but he hurt his chances when he needed 37 pitches to make it through the first, racking up a pitch count that didn't allow him to remain in the game long enough to earn a quality start.

"I was just all over the place today," said the right-hander, who is now 0-4 despite a 3.38 ERA. "I'm just putting myself in a hard position to get deeper into the game. I need to do a better job with that."

Jim Riggleman also needs to do a better job putting his players in situations that play to their strengths, not their weaknesses. In an absolute head-scratcher of a move, Riggleman had Ian Desmond take over in right field in the bottom of the seventh of what was then a 3-1 game, then shuffled a bunch of guys around four batters later to leave Alberto Gonzalez in right field for the first time in his career.

If you'd like to read Riggleman's full explanation of that sequence, you can find it at the end of tonight's gameday thread. In a nutshell, he was trying to ensure Desmond would get a chance to face Billy Wagner in the ninth inning, but then realized in mid-inning that Gonzalez has been working in the outfield lately and was the better choice.

Honestly, the explanation didn't make a lot of sense. Riggleman said he was out of right-handed-hitting outfielders. But Michael Morse had just pinch-hit in the top of the seventh for Roger Bernadina and easily could have taken over in right field himself. Oh, and Wagner made Desmond look foolish in striking him out to end the game.

The move ultimately didn't cost the Nats this one, but what after the fiasco in Houston last month in which Cristian Guzman dropped a sinking liner to right to lose in heartbreaking fashion, why risk another catastrophe with a career infielder playing the outfield?

The Nationals have now lost 14 of 18 since sweeping the Pirates in Stephen Strasburg's debut series. They've been horrendous on the road, losing 21 of their last 27 away from the District. And though they return home for a nice stretch of 10 games heading into the All-Star break, they'll be facing some stiff competition in the Mets, Padres and Giants.

Players seem to understand the importance of closing out the first half on a more-positive note.

"We need something," Adam Dunn said. "We're not playing up to our capabilities, and I don't know why that is. It's not lack of effort, it's not lack of talent, it's not any of that. We're just not playing well."

As Riggleman put it: "We've got to find something positive."

The test begins in earnest tomorrow night against the Mets.


rogieshan said...

<"Jim Riggleman also needs to do a better job putting his players in situations that play to their strengths, not their weaknesses.">

You've hit the proverbial nail on the head. And that "fiasco in Houston" you alluded to was what started the landslide that seems to have no end.

dale said...

Is there anyone in the clubhouse that says, "Jim, don't do it."? Or what is the point of having a bench coach if he allows you to embarrass yourself as a manager with just plain dumb stuff like this?

Richard said...

You have to start questioning the competence of Nats management and coaching, if you've been giving them the benefit of the doubt up to this point. Riggleman's use of his players seems strange and ineffective, and the team is seriously under performing. The moves in right field last September and lately should be enough evidence that a change is needed, if winning now and or at least putting a major league team on the field is a goal. And the hitting coach doesn't seem to be helping, either over the long haul or in games -- for example, last night where the Nats appeared to make no adjustments and struck out 12 times. You have to wonder, too, about some of the people Rizzo has brought in. Even leaving aside Marquis and Bruney, who seem to have forgotten how to pitch, there appears to be a serious lack of chemistry. What happened to the "character guys" Rizzo said he was seeking? Rizzo says his strength is evaluating talent. Got to wonder.

Joe Seamhead said...

Riggleman's moving guys around is more then strange, it's totally unprofessional.Anyone that's ever been associated with organized baseball on a successful level knows that chemistry is a hugely important intangible to winning. Part of a team's chemistry is consistency and players knowing their role. These guys are supposed to be major league athletes that have finely trained to play their position. Sure there are some versatile guys whose roles are to be able to do spot duty at different positions, but by and by they are specialists in their own right. Last night was a Riggleman fiasco that has a more harmful effect then just effecting that one game. It screws up the entire chemistry of "team" and he's been doing so much that this devoted Nat's fan is losing all confidence in his management.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo's ability to evaluate talent is indeed the big question. He seems to be putting all his chips on Morgan and Desmond, saying the latter will be here for "10-12" years. That's usually a time frame used for FOTF types, like Zimmerman and Wieters. (Shortstops playing near the top of their game at age 36/37 are pretty rare, BTW). Wonder if other GMs share those assessments. We'll never know what possible trades are being discussed, of course, but you'd think some enterprising GM would be trying to pry Morgan or Desmmond away from Rizzo right now when their stock is so low.

Avar said...

I have to admit I'm having serious dobuts about Rigglemean. These poor lineup moves keep piling up. Harris at DH w/ a hot Morse on the bench, Desmond in right field. There are just a lot of games where I see his lineups or his substitutions and think "why would you do that? It's the opposite of what makes sense." When we were winning, you let it go. But we have been terrible this season for longer than we were good. Now 10 games under .500 and firmly back in last place. I don't like knee-jerk reactions but pretty soon here, you have to start asking if he is the right guy for the job.

natscan reduxit said...

... Jimmy Riggs is not the best manager in the bigs, not by a long shot. But neither is he the worst. He has had a career with legs, albeit legs getting a little tired at the moment.

... it would be foolish and inconsistent with the current situation to fire the guy. But Rizz might consider, especially after this long stretch of horror, asking Jim to take a couple of weeks off, to get away from the game a bit and get his head back on straight.

... just a thought, on this Canada Day up here above the line, and in eager anticipation of the Glorious Fourth for all you 'down below-ers'.

Go Nats!!

Doc said...

I'm waiting for the Nats' game of games, when Riggs has Livo pinch hit for Morgan, and ends up playing CF.

NatsJack in Florida said...

On another note. Could we hear from Eckstein during this hitting drought? Even I can see that Zimmerman has quit looking the ball in to the zone. The double to right field the other nite was pure luck. That is a pitch he usually sees and hammers to the RF gap.
And Desmond is completely lost at the plate.

The team has fallen from a lofty 4th in hitting to 12th or 13th after last nite.

JayB said...

Really, you all are starting to see the light.....nice....go back a see when I started pointing out Riggs is part of the problem, and Morgan in CF and 2B and may not like hearing it first from me but that is what is happening.

Stew Magnuson said...

Funny how all the pitchers who face the Nats lately look like "dominating aces."

Anonymous8 said...

@Avar said...
I have to admit I'm having serious dobuts about Rigglemean. These poor lineup moves keep piling up. Harris at DH w/ a hot Morse on the bench...

Well, he found a way to cool Michael Morse down quick. Morse was on fire and he didn't use him. Like you would expect, the fire cools off after a while when the flames aren't stoked.

Riggleman is also playing 2 players short the way most of us see it. Willie Harris and Adam Kennedy are taking up space and that is Rizzo's responsibility.

On a bright note, Guzy played great at 2nd snagging 2 sure singles and turning them into outs. Kennedy has zero range.

On a sour note, Houston pitching made Alberto Gonzalez look like Justin Maxwell, Lost at the Plate.

Mark, excellent painful recap of the 6th inning. I expected Pudge to come through clutch against Moylan. Not much to say there.

K.D. said...

The way this team is snakebit I was not surprised Pudge hit into the double-play. Glass half full observation: he did knock in a run, threw out a runner, got a hit off of Wagner and made the ninth worth watching. Jurrjens is a really talented pitcher and a nice kid. It was good to see him come back strong, just wish it wasn't against the Nats.

Bowdenball said...

Jurrjens has very good stuff. You see Jair Jurrjens vs. J.D. Martin on the road, and that's not a game you expect to win, regardless of whether Jurrjens is coming off the DL. Sure, we didn't look comfortable, but these sort of games happen, and hopefully the guys will relax at the plate a bit when they get home for a long holiday weekend series.

My bigger concern is that our division rival is throwing out a guy like Jair Jurrjens as their #5 starter while our rotation is basically one man deep.

Ernie said...

Another night with odd baserunning as well. What was going on with Dunn during that wild pitch? It looked like a pretty sure thing on TV, but maybe not in person.

I don't know of any stat that is kept on this, but we have to be at or near the top of the league in boneheaded baserunning mistakes. I can't believe that's just luck. But is there anyone who can turn that around? Is it just like defense--you have to leave it to the players to "play through it?" Who is in charge of coaching baserunning? Listach? Riggleman?

Pete said...

I've been to at least 15 games this year, and I have tickets for two games this weekend, but after that I may be done for the year. The Nats sucketh.

Jimmy said...

Ernie - The wall behind home plate in Atlanta isn't too far back and the catcher was able to get it pretty quickly. Dunn isn't exactly a speedster, and was smart not to run in. Gonzales, for his part, was waving Dunn in while not looking where the catcher or ball went, which was pretty foolish. Bernadina or someone with speed might have been able to score, but not a guy like Dunn. There has been plenty of poor baserunning this season. That play wasn't one of them.


That's twice in this series that Gonzales struck out in a key situation on the outside breaking ball. He can't layoff that pitch. Nice guy, solid fielder, but his going 4-4 the other night was an anomaly. He is a career sub-250 guy and as we have seen, pitchers that have a report on him know where to put the ball. He deserved another start after that great performance, but he is not the silver bullet people have been clamoring for lately.

NatinBeantown said...

One of the things that seems to be hamstringing Riggs is the MI positions, and that's on the FO (both Bowden and Rizzo). I'm sure he doesn't have tons of confidence in any of Guz, Kennedy, Desmond and Gonzo at the end of a game, either because of feilding liabilities or poor bats, or both.

When they decided to go with Desmond for the everyday role, I was as pleased as anyone, but we needed the other MI position to be a rock. Kennedy is a nice complimentary piece/veteran depth/backup, but was never going to be the rock for Desmond to build on.

And it's going to be a major offseason or trade deadline need, because it's not like there's help on the way. We have an All-Star MI in Syracuse in Lambin, but he's about to turn 31. Smiley was a disaster. Espinosa is a few years away, and not a sure thing. When they say Desmond will be "the SS for 10-12 years" and "a star in this league," the second part of the statement is "... we sure as hell hope."

K.D. said...

I hear you Pete, but you know the beauty of baseball? I was offered Tiger tickets from a friend for a game. They had lost the last three games I had gone to, so I just didn't feel like driving three hours to Detroit that day and turned the tickets down. Because of that I missed Verlander's no-hitter. You just never know.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with Jimmy D's defensive comments of Adam Dunn's baserunning blunder on the wild pitch. When the heck is a player and his manager held responsible for mistakes?!!

1. Dunn's lead off of third base was way too small.
2. The Nat's have very few opportunities to score and need to make every effort to do so when the opportunity arises.
3. In all my years of watching baseball, I can't recall an instance where a man on third base did not make a break for the plate on wild pitch. He should have been on his way before the ball bounced off the wall. The fact that he had not already committed to run proves my point. Yes he did take a few light hearted steps before he retreated, but let's be honest...he never planned on running.

This is just another of a littany of examples of Nat's players whose head is not in the game.

Fire Riggleman. It's his job to make sure the players are executing on the fundamentals.

A DC Wonk said...

Look at that photo. McCann's right hand is just sitting there lazily on his right knee. Isn't that an invitation for a hand injury. In fact, didn't he injure his hand in just that way two nights ago? I thought almost all catchers had adopted Johnny Bench's technique of keeping the throwing hand behind the back (Pudge does this, too).

Big Cat said...

I think a little attention must be directed at Mr Eckstein the hitting coach

phil dunn said...

What are Rick Eckstein's qualifications to be a big league hitting coach? Can someone enlighten me? I did a google search on his name and find no evidence he ever played professional baseball.

A DC Wonk said...

Folks need to lighten up on Rizzo for saying the Desmond is the SS of the future. What the heck else do you expect any GM to say? Desmond is, after all, currently, the best SS in the Nats' entire system.

Would you ever expect any GM to say, "yeah, that rookie we brought up who's currently the best SS in our system is passable enough until we get somebody better, or some of our real young guys develop" ?

Further, Desmond *does* have great potential upside. Lots of players look lost at times during their rookie year. Even Willie Mays had a cumulative .265 average after his first two seasons (second season cut short).

NatsJack in Florida said...

Thanks Big Cat.... I said that earlier but no one besides you and me seem to be interested in what out hitting coach thinks our problem is.

HHover said...

Mark - off topic, but I was wondering if you're going to do a post anytime soon to weigh in about trade rumors--either about who the Nats might deal, or what they might be looking for in return.

As a Nats fan who doesn't want to see this season take a total nose dive into the crapper, I'm worried that most of the talk so far seems to involve the Nats losing Dunn or Willingham, who have been very productive on offense and at least adequate on defense. Obviously, other teams aren't going to give up a lot for the Nats deadwood (Kennedy, Harris, etc), but I'd hate to see the Nats give up quality players unless it's to address some of their most glaring weaknesses--the middle infield in particular.

Starting pitching isn't great, but it seems to me the Nats would do better to see who comes back strong off the DL before they go trading for arms.

Bowdenball said...

A DC Wonk:

People keep making the same mistake you did about "rookie years," so I'll keep correcting it.

Desmond is 24 and has been playing minor league ball for six years. If he was going to be a "star," we'd know it by now.

Mays was 20 when he was a rookie. When he was 24, he hit .319 with a .400 OBP, 51 HRs, had an OPS+ of 174.
How do those numbers compare to Desmond's 24 year old season?

Jeff said...

Mark and company, please educate me.

In the MLB (or specifically the Nationals), does the 3rd base coach give hitting signs like what I experienced in Little League?

Specifically to the Nationals, we have a lot of guys who swing at the first pitch after the opposing pitcher gave up a 4 pitch walk or just came in the game, etc.

To me this is just sound batting logic. So, are MLB players always up to their own discretion?

Just curious.

alexva said...

Desmond took a long time getting to the bigs, no doubt because of his fielding problems and his average minor league hitting stats. Then he got hot at the plate, was given a chance to show his stuff last year and had a good spring, albeit not in the field.

He had to be given a shot or let go, I think they did the right thing and now also realize he's not a star. At the same time, I think he can be better than what he's shown lately, maybe in CF as Rigg suggested.

Steve M. said...

Phil Dunn - I believe Eckstein played at University of Florida and he is one of the hardest working guys on the staff.

You need teachable guys but he also has to understand that some guys can't be changed and their unorthodox style is their style and subtle changes work better.

This team was Top 4 in batting just a few weeks ago. Eckstein is one of the bright spots on the staff.

The blame has to be on Rizzo, while it worked out great with Capps and Pudge the other side of it is Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris, Wil Nieves, Justin Maxwell, Brian Bruney, Jason Marquis, Willy Tavares were over 25% of his Opening Day roster and his Opening Day pitcher was John Lannan.

That isn't Riggleman's fault it is Riggleman's problem as he has no bench to pull from and 3 subpar starters and Nyjer Morgan patrolling Centerfield.

Riggleman has had his share of screwups but Rizzo has done nothing to help. Rizzo made no trades and his saving grace was Strasburg and Storen waiting in AAA.

Wombat-socho said...

Granted that Riggleman hasn't had all the players he might like to have, he hasn't used the ones he's had very well. Instead of abusing his starting pitchers like he used to, he overworks his relievers, and he's made a fetish out of starting Willie Harris, who's been an offensive liability this season.

Post linked at Beltway Baseball.

Nats2005 said...

Steve M:

A manager has to make the most of what he's got. Riggleman does not and cannot do that. As Mark points out, he plays to his players' weaknesses, not their strengths, and doesn't even realize it: witness his inane "explanation" of his moves last night.

Riggleman is simply dumb and inept, He is 150 games under .500 for his managerial career. He has never won (the Cubs fluke year notwithstanding) and is incapable of winning. His teams cannot hit, cannot pitch, cannot field, and cannot run the bases. Never could, never will. Fundamentals? Hah! Riggleman is a millstone around the nats' neck.

cadeck13 said...

Arghhh! Ground Hog Day! 2008 and 2009

"We need something," Adam Dunn said. "We're not playing up to our capabilities, and I don't know why that is. It's not lack of effort, it's not lack of talent, it's not any of that. We're just not playing well."

I swear Dunn said the same thing last year.
Please, tonight when they say "Let's play ball" let's play ball!

I'm curious too about what Rick Eckstein has to say about our hitting, especially with RISP.

NatinBeantown said...

@DC Wonk- 2 responses:

First, on McCann's hand: When I caught, I kept my hand behind my back up until high school, when they had me bring it around to rest on my knee as McCann does. It allows you to block balls in the dirt better, since you don't have to bring your arm around to make a wall with your body. If your hand is limp, a foul tip will only bruise, not break anything.

2) I hope you didn't misread my comment about Des and the SS of the future stuff. I don't have any angst for Ian or the FO's comments about that. My comment was entirely based on how thin we are behind him in the system, and the accountability that Bowden/Rizzo have after Smileygate, the Hudson non-signing, drafting/developing very few bats, etc. I totally agree with you that management needs to be outwardly supportive of players.

A DC Wonk said...

A lot of responses:

"Rizzo has done nothing to help"

First off -- I disagree with all the Rizzo-bashing. I'll say again (don't worry, I'll eventually get tired of it), the Nats bullpen has been completely rebuilt -- thanks to Rizzo (who was also criticized for picking Storen last year). The pitching staff as a whole has improved a ridiculous almost-full-one run in ERA since last year (and the bullpen by almost 1.50). Last year we had the worst pitching staff by far. This year it's average. That in itself is a significant step. Everybody knows you start with pitching.

"Rizzo has made no trades". You know, you have to have good players to offer -- or at least good prospects. I'm happy Rizzo hasn't traded away good prospects. But he signed Pudge, and Livo, and a number of pitchers who may, or may not work out (but they were worth a try).

Rizzo has an established body of work -- he did great with the D-backs -- and he's been the official GM here for less than 12 months. As I've said plenty often -- you just can't go from dead last in the league for two straight seasons to wild-card contender the next year (even more so when MLB let the entire farm system die on the vine for years).

As for all the comments that Desmond has to go, I stand amazed. He hit around .330 combined last year (in AA and AAA, where he hit over .350). He's a d@mn rookie, and many rookies need more than three months to adjust to the majors. (And Bowden, I wasn't comparing him to Mays -- of course Mays is a better player -- I was saying *even Mays* needed time to adjust. Fine, Mays was 21. That's because Mays was better.) Bernadina needed time to adjust (he's a year older than Ian) -- anyone remember all the comments that Bernadina was over his head and needed to be let go? Anyone remember how godawful he looked last year with the Nats? (In fact, I thought he was hopeless, too!)

I'm not saying Desmond is our answer -- but I am arguing emphatically that all we can say at this point is: the jury's still out. He's a good athlete, great range, strong kid, and he's 24. There might be a good hitter there, too -- but we just don't know yet.

I can relate to impatience. But baseball is not a game for the impatient.

Anonymous said...

anyone remember all the comments that Bernadina was over his head and needed to be let go? Anyone remember how godawful he looked last year with the Nats? (In fact, I thought he was hopeless, too!)

Bernadina wasn't hopeless last year. He was hurt. Out pretty much the whole season with a broken leg.

Steve M. said...

Here is Johan Santana's record against Willie Harris (1-for-9, 2B, BB, 2 K) and Adam Kennedy (4-for-19, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K).

I don't expect either of these guys to play tonight. If they face Santana, fire Riggleman on the spot because then you know he has lost his mind.

Riggleman reports to Rizzo. If Rizzo hasn't ripped him a new one for some of his moves then shame on Rizzo.

Isn't there any accountability for these guys?

Bowdenball said...

A DC Wonk:

I hear you. But I think the larger point I made about Desmond not really being a "rookie" for the sake of comparison holds. A lot of people make the argument you made using guys like Jeter for comparisons, saying they all struggle their "rookie" years. Inevitably, those rookies are 20, 21 years old. I haven't seen a single link or stat line for any player who struggled like this (sub .300 OBP for a full half-season) at this advanced age and then went on to become a star, at least not without the help of PEDs.

If there is one, I'd love to know about it, because I WANT to believe. I like the guy. He's a total class act, and I want him to be a piece of a winner in DC, and soon. I just don't see it. He may some day be a decent, serviceable SS. It seems unlikely, but certainly possible. But hoping for a star seems like waiting on a miracle to me.


My observations:

Defense has been a problem all year. With all the physical errors that show up in the stats, there have been plenty of mental errors that don't show up in the boxscores.

Offensively, the team is average but lacks that killer instinct of piling on runs. Way too many close games. When they had the chance in Baltimore to put up a few more runs to cushion the lead, they couldn't do it.

Bench depth is the worst in all of MLB. They have Nieves as the backup catcher and Willie Harris as the backup outfielder and Kennedy as the backup infielder. 'Nuff said.

Bullpen seems to get soft during leads of 3 runs or more, which has plagued the team all year. We saw it in Baltimore and Houston. Riggleman needs to keep a shorter leash on these guys.

Strasburg outings the offense disappears. They have made the opposition pitcher in each outing look like a Cy Young candidate.

For the most immediate results, Rizzo should immediately promote 2 very capable guys from the Minors (not named Maxwell)and DFA Kennedy and Willie Harris or trade the 2 for a couple bags of balls and good salty dugout treats (pumpkin seeds preferred).

Section 222 said...

The only explanation I can figure out for the "who's in RF?" debacle last night is that Riggleman had a brain freeze. His explanation after the game was almost nonsensical. First of all, suppose Desmond had been successful against Wagner in the 9th. It wasn't going to win the game. Who's going to bat for the pitcher in the No. 2 spot? The only RH bat left was Will Nieves (or Livo I suppose). You're going to have to use him anyway, so why not put the pitcher in the No. 8 spot if you want to leave Desmond in the game (and leave Morse in RF). It's not like you're losing much at the plate by taking out Gonzales. If you don't have enough confidence in Morse as a RF'er at the end of the game, he shouldn't be on the team. I had really hoped that this idea that any old middle infielder can play RF if he practices a little before the game had been debunked by the Houston disaster.

Everyone makes mistakes, even managers. I only hope that Riggs is owning up to this one, at least internally. If he actually thinks he made the right move last night, we're in real trouble.

Anonymous said...

My prediction for the next guy to show up as a Riggleman late-inning replacement in RF: Mark Lerner. He's looked really good in the outfield before games (only one error all season) and his massive salary will immediately improve the entire lineup as soon has he's added. They'll be making even more than the Yankees!


I will go with an unpopular post about Desmond. He has a lot of errors but he also saves a lot of runs with his range.

I think he is hurting the team more because he isnt hitting the ball well.

Guzman should never play short again but is suitable at 2nd and still learning the position.

Riggleman doesnt have many options as Kennedy is horrible at defense and not great with the bat.

What about Boomer Whiting and Josh Whitesell? They have to be better than Kennedy and Harris.

Anonymous said...

I think Bowdenball's assessment of Desmond's prospects is accurate. Why can't Rizzo therefore simply say, "we think he's going to be a fine major league SS, and we're going to give him a chance to prove it"? Why burden the (relatively) young man with unrealistic expectations?

Mark, just for laughs can you ask Rizzo about possible Nats' involvement in the international free agent signing period that's due to open tomorrow? Pretty sure we are not going to be players (as usual), but has he ever spelled out his philosophy on drafting and development of domestic vs. international players? We know that the former come cheaper--is that the bottom line?

A DC Wonk said...

Bowdenball, you make a good point. I have a vague recollection of Zimmerman having really awful early season a few years back, and so I'm guessing that other younger players have, too.

Just taking a quick look at some SS's in the NL:

Jimmy Rollins hit .245 for a full season at 24 (which was his second year, his first year he did better).

The first two seasons Orlando Carbrera had over 300 AB, he was 24 and 25, and he hit .254, and then .237 (with a .279 OBP!) -- since then he had six seasons of .275 or better (including .297 and .301).

Steven Drew (Ariz) - first full season at age 24 he hit .238, the next year he hit .291

So -- I still think the jury's out.

Bowdenball said...

DC Wonk-

I think it's fair to hope for a Drew or Cabrera career arc from Desmond. I actually think it's reasonable to hope for him to be better than Cabrera, who's a pretty terrible hitter. I'm really hoping he turns into a quality defensive SS, 15 HR, .340-.350 OBP kind of guy. That's on a "star" by anyone's definition, but it can be a #7 hitter type on a winning ballclub. And unlike saying he'll be a star, it doesn't seem like a total fantasy.

Les in CA said...

Fire Riggleman, he has a poor team underperforming. That's quite an accomplishment. Lets get a real big league manager! If we stay with Riggleman we're destined to suffer 92-98 losses. That's not much of an improvement over last year, aprticularly when you consider Strasburg and Storen joining the team during the spring.

Desmond is not the answer. He's a short term stop-gap measure. He is NOT good defensively and isn't much of a hitter. He will bounce around the majors for a decade as one team after another is seduced by his "potential" but will never be a real starting SS on any team that finishes above .500. The Nats don't happen to have anyone else right now, so we will have to grin and bear it until the off-season. THEN Rizzo needs to fix it by getting a real SS. While he's at it, he should get a real 2Bman.

On the plus side, the bull pen has been great, Bernadina is showing signs of living up to his advance billing and the is still a very good 3-4-5 trio.

But Riggleman HAS to go!

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