Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stras solid, but bullpen wins game

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg made two second-inning mistakes but otherwise pitched well.
There will come a time, perhaps not too far in the future, when Jim Riggleman will let Stephen Strasburg take the mound for the sixth inning of a tie game sitting on 85 pitches.

That time wasn't this afternoon, though, not with Strasburg still easing his way back from a brief stint on the disabled list, and not when a brief fan protest threw a surprise delay into the Nationals' game against the Diamondbacks.

So a crowd of 21,695 -- the smallest by far to see Strasburg pitch in 11 big-league starts -- witnessed the odd sight of the rookie right-hander batting for himself to lead off the bottom of the fifth, then deferring to reliever Tyler Clippard for the top of the sixth.

"I was undecided whether I wanted him to go back out there anyway," Riggleman said. "Once we sat in there a little bit longer with the [protest] going on, I just decided, you know what, I'm not going to send him back out there."

The move ultimately paid off for the Nats, who turned Ian Desmond's go-ahead single, Ryan Zimmerman's solo homer and four scoreless innings of relief into a 5-3 victory.

The most encouraging development of the afternoon might have been the dominant relief work from Clippard, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen. Read about those guys, plus Strasburg, on


Richard said...

I was at the game yesterday and was troubled by Riggleman's decision to pull Strasburg after 5 innings and 85 pitches dispite letting him bat leadoff in the bottom of the fifth, a move which might have prevented a big inning or at least a run when the next two batters (Bernadina and Desmond) reached base. I don't find Riggleman's explanation credible that he wasn't sure about letting Strasburg pitch the 6th and then, with the delay between innings in the 5th re the protesters on the field, he decided not to, because the delay occurred before Strasburg batted. I think Strasburg should've pitched the 6th, unless August and September are merely extended spring training for 2011, like playing Desmond and then Guzman in right field. Anyway, yeah, the Nats won the game and the relievers were great, but I find the indecision troubling, if the Nats want to be a championship team.

SpashCity said...

Richard -

I agree that on a championship team, the decision to pull Strasburg after 5 innings despite letting him bat leadoff in the bottom of the 5th, was definitely a questionable move, until I heard the explanation.

The Nats are not a championship team in 2010. While winning games in 2010 is still obviously a priority for the team, there are other priorities as well, which depending on the situation, make take precedent over the "just win baby" mentality. I'm sure Riggleman has orders to be overly cautious with Strasburg, basically meaning that if anything doesn't look, feel, or smell right about what is going on with him, just pull him. It's not worth it to try to squeeze one more inning out of him in a season which is already over from a competitive standpoint.

The Nats have a real chance to compete in the next couple of years, with a rotation built around Strasburg. The Nats shouldn't blow that chance for one more inning in 2010.

Basically I'm saying that if Riggleman is still the manager next year, and the Nats are in some kind of playoff race, I bet they would leave Strasburg in there. But they are obviously being extremely cautious with him. I am ok with the explanation that because of the long delay because of the protesters, Riggs decided to shut him down for the day. But I don't think that would happen next year if the Nats are fighting for a first-time playoff birth.

Joe Seamhead said...

I had no problem with Riggs pulling him but letting him bat for himself was another curious move by Riggleman.
Something that did bother me though was the lally-gagging that went on by Kennedy when Strasburg made the throwing error. The guy on first scored on the play and the batter got to third! Adam jogged to retrieve the ball. It almost looked like he was treating it as a dead ball. There was no freaking way that Arizona should have ended up with 6 total bases from that error. It really was a complete lack of hustle by Kennedy and it went unmentioned by the announcers. Physical and mental errors are part of the game, but there's no place for lack of effort.

Anonymous8 said...

Riggleman wanted to keep him in to see whether they got the lead for him in the bottom of the 5th. Couple that with Riggleman's own 2nd guessing and he probably made the correct move.

Pull Strasburg on a positive note. Tie game with 1 earned run. Stras got his ERA down to 2.97 and the big decision comes from Rizzo this week.
Do you pitch Strasburg in Philthadelphia this coming up weekend or save him for Monday at home against the Cubs? With Monday off, everyone can pitch on normal rest if Rizzo does that.

Feel Wood said...

"Basically I'm saying that if Riggleman is still the manager next year, and the Nats are in some kind of playoff race, I bet they would leave Strasburg in there."

If Riggleman is still the manager next year there's no way they'll be in a playoff race.

Anonymous said...

The Morse issue has sorted itself out. Looks like Rizzo/Riggleman were right.

Richard said...

I agree with Joe S., it looked like Kennedy was jogging after the ball without urgency or hustle. You felt like yelling "GET THE BALL!".

NatsJack in Florida said...

I'm with Joe S. and Richard. I saw B.J. Upton and Hanley Ramiirez all over again except no one had enough cajones to call Kennedy out on his "loafing".

SpashCity said...

I think Morse should have been backing up first base on Strasburg's error as well. Every little league coach says that every player should be doing something on every play. On a bunt or little dribbler like the one Strasburg botched, it is the right fielder's job to run to the right field line to back up the play, but Morse was nowhere to be seen.

Also, at the risk of sending the Riggleman haters into a frenzy, it seems to me that he has done a fairly good job managing a team that lost its top two starting pitchers coming out of spring training, and that the Nats simply had one terrible month: June.

The Nats went 8-19 in June. In addition to playing 27 games in just 30 days, which has to take a toll on the pitching staff, the Nats also had their worst offensive month of the season, scoring just 91 runs for an average of 3.4 runs per game. The Nats team slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) for June was (.246/.308/.361/.670), all season lows.

If we throw out June, the Nats record would be (43-48) for a .473 winning percentage.

Is it really Riggleman's fault that the Nats went into a team-wide month-long slump in June? Maybe. But asking an overworked pitching staff to hold teams to less than 3 runs a game for a whole month is tough.

Obviously one month does not a season make - a team needs sustained success for six months. But one bad month can ruin an otherwise successful season on the climb out of the cellar and back to respectability, as we have seen this year.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put, SpashCity. The Nats are a work in progress, and there has been progress from last year to the present. It is interesting how we latch on to heroes (e.g., Morse) who turn out to have clay feet after all. The whole organization is making progress (the draft signings being a good example) and the foundation for future successes created. It isn't always a smooth ride, but it does appear to be happening.

Steve M. said...

I call foul. Morse got into a slump. It happens. He now needs a couple days off and get restarted.

Riggleman didn't play him when he was on fire, now he is playing him when it looks painful to watch a guy on a slump. He is swinging like JMax now. Long looping swing.

When you aren't going well, you get robbed by the shortstop like he did yesterday.

Feel Wood said...

"Is it really Riggleman's fault that the Nats went into a team-wide month-long slump in June?"

Yes. Recall that June was the month that offered three road series against AL teams, an opportunity for Riggleman to use the DH to get another hot bat into the lineup every night. Morse was hot then, he would have been the obvious choice. But what does Riggleman do? Gives Dunn, Willingham and Zimmerman days off, and uses the likes of Willie Harris as the DH. Riggleman has to be the prime culprit for that June slump. And despite his still-mediocre .473 non-June record, those June games count too.

Anonymous said...

Feel Wood,

I do agree that we should have used Morse more in June but I think that at the end of the year his overall numbers will prove out that he is what we thought he was at the start of the year; a decent power threat coming off the bench and a good fill in occasionally; not an every day player.

IMHO we fell apart in June because we had to send: Atilano, Martin, Stammen to the mound 3 out of every 5 days; because Lannan was in the midst of a terrible slump and Livo wasn't as dominant as he was in the first 2 months.

Other factors like Zimmerman's month long slump contributed but if you get crappy starting pitching daily; most of the time you lose.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I get the feeling that Riggleman could have the Nats contending for a playoff spot and the complaining would still be going on. It's almost a varsity sport. Honestly, he doesn't have that much to work with. And BTW, some people were sure Morse was the answer. He hasn't been. Riggleman is looking better on that one.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Stammen was in AAA most of June (June 7 to June 28). Came back to beat Atlanta. In fact the most recent losing he was also not in the rotation. Say what you will but the lost series to Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago that were all in June) and recently Los Angeles and Florida he was not in the rotation.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:57,

I think you are right;

It was Stratsburg, Lannan, Livo, Atilano and Martin.

You know what?

Stammen has been batter than anyone excluding Stratsburg and Livo but including Olsen and Marquis.

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