Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fried by the Fish ... again

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis was solid again, But Anibal Sanchez was better.
There were things to like about the Nationals today, between another strong pitching performance from Jason Marquis, a fantastic play at second base by Danny Espinosa and one of the niftier double plays you'll ever see.

Of course, none of that really mattered at the end of a 4-1 loss to the Marlins that felt like plenty of other losses to the Marlins that preceded it.

"A lot of good stuff happened," Jim Riggleman said. "But the story of the day really was Sanchez."

That's Anibal Sanchez, the latest Florida starter to manhandle the Nationals lineup. The 26-year-old right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced, 19 of the first 20. Which would be news if he hadn't done this plenty of times before.

"He's been good every time we've seen him," Riggleman said. "I don't know how many times he's pitched against us, but I don't really feel like we've gotten him yet."

That's correct, Jim. Sanchez has made four starts against the Nats this season. He's 2-0 with a 1.07 ERA. Until Wilson Ramos doubled in Nyjer Morgan in the eighth, Sanchez hadn't allowed a run in his last 21 1/3 innings against the Nats. Oh, and in 13 career starts against this franchise, he's 5-0 with a 2.28 ERA.

Of course, you could find similar stats for just about anybody the Marlins send to the mound or the plate against the Nationals. This was the Nats' ninth loss in their last 10 games against Florida. Over the last three years, they're 14-38. That's a .269 winning percentage. Which means if they played each other 162 times, the Nats would go 43-119.

Oh, and there's still one more head-to-head game left tomorrow afternoon!

"They've got a good pitching staff, with the big guy Johnson, Nolasco, Sanchez," Riggleman said. "They really have put together a formidable staff there. But as much as we see them, we're going to have to step up and get them."

The shame of today's loss was that it came at the expense of yet another solid outing from Marquis, who didn't allow a hit until the fifth and wound up striking out eight (his most in any start since September 1, 2008).

In seven starts since returning from the DL, Marquis has posted a 3.55 ERA. Over his last five starts, his ERA is 2.40. All of this leaves the veteran righty feeling much better about himself as an otherwise disastrous season nears its conclusion.

"It's definitely a positive sign, getting back to where I need to be," he said. "I feel like I've made a lot of strides since the surgery. ... I just want to finish up strong, so when you enter the offseason, mentally you have a fresh and positive mind instead of heading into the offseason and spring training not knowing what's going on."

Here's what the Nationals have in Marquis: A reliable veteran who should be able to be counted on next season to give his team a chance to win just about every time he takes the mound. Staff ace? No. Important member of the rotation? Yes.

And here's what the Nationals appear to have in Espinosa: A supremely talented infielder who can get to just about anything hit in his general vicinity, has the arm to throw anybody out from just about anywhere and has the confidence to play at this level.

Yes, it's only been nine games. And yes, he's now 0 for his last 13 after a ridiculous 9-for-16 start to his career.

But the key to September evaluations of rookies is not so much what their stats say but whether they look like they belong in the big leagues. And so far, Espinosa looks like he belongs, just as Ian Desmond did one year ago.

Espinosa's diving stop of Logan Morrison's fifth-inning smash up the middle followed by his rifle throw to first was as good a play as you'll see all season. In the nearly six years of their existence, the Nationals have sent 25 different players out to second base, a motley crew that includes the likes of Ronnie Belliard, Felipe Lopez, Bernie Castro, Carlos Baerga and Damian Jackson. Not one one them makes the play Espinosa made today.

"I mean, the range to get it and the arm to finish the play off ... just a tremendous play," Riggleman said. "I don't know what more you could do there. I don't know much farther anybody can go to get a ball. And then to throw it the way he did was tremendous."

Let's not forget that Espinosa only began playing second base a month ago.

"I'm starting to feel more comfortable every day over there," he said.

Even at age 23, with less than two weeks of big-league service time, Espinosa also knows his individual performance means nothing if it comes during another frustrating loss to a team that has dominated the Nats like no other.

"We need to win those games," he said. "Our pitchers are doing a good job keeping us in the game, giving us an opportunity to win the game. And we just haven't done it the last couple days."


Golfersal said...

It was very sad at the game today.
People in the stands are expecting to lose there is very little spirit anymore and it's just going through the motions.
The crowd was less than 10,000 and it's like total deflation by 75% of them.

Things are getting worst by the day and the end of the season can't come fast enough.

By front row $55 club level seats aren't selling forcing me to go. Really funny all morning the tickets were on Stub Hub with about 900 others and didn't sell
Guess with the first weekend of Football, school's being back and the Nats playing so terribly bad nobody give a hoot about the Nats.

I can't see any way that Riggelman survives all of this, fingers of the fans in the stand is placing blame on him and he has lost a lot of respect in the last couple of weeks.

Not been a very good time in NatsTown since that faithful day in Philly when Strasburg hurt himself. Christ I thought that I would never say this back in May but the Nats could have the third or fourth worst record in baseball and only win five to ten games more than last year.

Nats management has a lot of work come October 4th.

Mike said...

Face it. The Nats have an ownership group that simply does not care about winning. They're an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo knows what he's doing. Be patient. But, if Riggleman doesn't have the Nats playing at least .500 ball by the All-Star break 2011, he has to go. Does everyone agree? Also, let's get rid of Morgan.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Rizzo knows what he is doing ... he can't be happy either you seem to always seem him in the stands watching the pitchers ... which for him is the key to everything, to winning. The pitchers and it starts with the starters. You look at the Marlins starters and you see why Rizzo prizes Stras and Zimmermann ...

... and unlike earlier in the year he is silent about the team's performance. The manager's performance. But he is looking. Its why Riggleman was told to play Espinosa, to play Ramos to the exclusion of Nieves and Kennedy. Riggleman would have surely done the reverse.

SonnyG10 said...

I agree that Rizzo knows what he's doing and I agree with his and Kasten's plan for building the franchise. However, I believe Rizzo will keep Riggleman and Morgan until he can find someone better. When he does, he will replace them.

I strongly disagree with Mike when he says the ownership does not care about winning. You don't pay well over slot to sign your draft picks if you don't care about winning.

Doc said...

Riggleman, a nice guy, but really an AA/AAA manager. His judgements, his excuses for players like Morgan are not big league.

He treats the non-performing vets on the Nats, like he owes them. If he had to be told to play Ramos and Espinosa, then he has to go.

As Leo The Lip was quoted as saying, "Nice guys finish last!" Riggleman is putting non-game managing options in the Nats game, that are not conducive to winning.

Joe Seamhead said...

Davey! Davey Johnson! King of the Nats next year.
He's on the payroll. I would love to see him back in the Majors managing the Nats.Who better?

Golfersal said...

Disagree on how the owners don't care about winning, that is bull. Winning means money and the Lerner's who own the team don't get out of bed unless they make a million profit. No the Lerner's want a winner.

Also disagree on giving Riggleman until the all-star break of next year. No that would be another waste of a year and I really feel that if things fall into place that they have the players to content next year. Just need consistent pitching and someone that will not only motivate them but point them in the right direction and beat-crap out of them.

Wish that Billy Martin was still alive, if he was managing the team we would be contending this year.

Frankly the Nats are just as good as the Marlins and should be a 500 team. Again, they just don't have the management that will pull the right strings to get these guys not only motivated but bring out the best of them so that the offense would produce all the time like they did last week.

Sorry but Riggleman has to go along with Nyjer

Sick, Tired and Fed Up said...

Riggleman continues to be completely full of horse bleep. "They really have a formidable staff" my backside. They're hardly dominating the rest of baseball. Oh wait, other teams have actual major league hitters. There are girls' teams in Iowa that would have formidable staffs if they got to pitch to the Nationals. This team flat out can't hit. And since they can't field either, its time for a major shuffle. Can you imagine for a second the Yankees running out such a useless bunch?

A DC Wonk said...

I'm confused:

If he had to be told to play Ramos and Espinosa, then he has to go.

OK -- but why are so many people just assuming that? I think it's a ridiculous assertion.

This team flat out can't hit.

Is that why the manager has to go?

Anonymous said...

They put the "E" by us in the standings. We are eliminated. Last place. Again.

Alan said...

Paying over slot for draft picks is the frugal way to build a team. Draft picks are wildly underpaid relative to established talent. Glad they're paying, because it's a smart way to build a team, but they have to do more to actually prove they are committed to winning. Very disappointing end of the year. Riggs' handling of the Morgan circus and his support of his knuckleheaded play have really set a depressing tone.

Mike said...

I stand by my contention that the Lerners are not committed to putting a winning team on the field. As Alan said, paying above slot for draft picks is a cheap way to give the illusion of such commitment. Draft choices, even when paid above slot, are far cheaper than the kind of free agent signings this team needs to really be competitive. The Lerners have proved time and again that they have no intention of signing such free agents. They prefer to go after bargain basement junk that couldn't sign anywhere else. They won't even re-sign their own soon-to-be free agent who could end up being the HR leader by the end of the season. They're cheap. That's the bottom line. Like the Pirates, the Nationals have discovered that they can be both unsuccessful on the field yet still make a profit. That's the path that they've decided to take.

Nattydread said...

Very glum postings after a fairly positive post by Mark.

Gotta take away the positives and start looking to next year.

1. Solid infield. Espinosa. Desmond. Zimmerman. Man, even Dunn looked alert on that double play --- and Desmond was quick to cover third! We haven't seen plays like these up the middle in a long time. Not exactly "dogging it in September".

2. Marquis. 8 K's. Nice.

3. Bullpen not bad, again.

4. Goes to show the feast and famine nature of the Nats offense. When the hitters aren't hitting, its quiet out there. When Dunn is off, Zimmerman can't carry the team. And Espinosa isn't Mickey Mantle.

Golfersal said...

Sorry I just don't buy this contention that the Lerners are being cheap. These are the same owners that two years ago said yes to $180 million for Texeria so does any of you bright brains have anything to say about that???

I agree with Nattydread that there will be happier days ahead we have some great talent and hopefully Dunn will get resigned.

I still don't think that Riggleman is the man for the job I really think that we need a Dusty Baker type. Look what has happened with the O's with a proven manager.

Let me leave you with this one thought. Look at Riggleman's record. In 1993 his first full season with San Diego his record was 61-101 and a 7th place finish. In five full years with the Cubs he was over 500, twice, in 1998 was second in NL Centeral. At Seattle he managed the second half of the year of a poor team and was 36-54.
Point I am trying to make, he isn't a proven manger and after this year has proven that he just doesn't know how to win.

If management wants to do use a favor they would go out and get someone with a proven track record. Do what the Dodgers did three years ago with Grady Little. They signed a great manager in Torre first and then got rid of Little. The Nats should find that really great manager and if they can't find him sign him for another year and play it my ear. We need better leadership with the Nats to get better

Anonymous said...

Wow, it seems like EVERYBODY pitches well against the Nationals. A pitcher with a good record will have one of his best games; a pitcher in a losing streak will have a great game to break his losing streak; a Rookie will break into the big leagues with a huge teriffic game against the Nationals. A coincidence????

Mike said...

The Lerners knew that the Yankees would outbid them for Texeira. Again, their "offer" of $180 M for Texeir was yet another instance where they were creating the illusion of willingness to spend money on this team. All the while they knew that their bluff would not be called because the Yankees really wanted Texeira were going to offer more than whatever figure the Nationals threw out there for hm. The Lerners never had any real intention of signing him.

bgib said...

If Dunn is not signed, and it looks like he won't be, then....we are Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...


Your are based on your already preconceived conclusions; unfortunately you are incorrect. You can spend $120 million like the Mets and Cubs and still stink. You can't build a team with free agents; Baltimore tried for years.

You build the infrastructure first and then you augment that with targeted free agents; Rizzo has been in charge for less than 2 years and has made some really nice moves (sign Capps; flip Capps for Ramos, acquire Burnett, sign All the key expensive draft choices - where did you get the idea that they are 'cheap'?).

BTW the NAts were NOT outbid by the Yankees; Texiera just preferred to go there.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all this love for Dunn. I know he has good numbers but have you ever seen a player of his stature and caliber fail in the clutch more than Dunn?

I used to dismiss the whole notion of clutch hitting but it has to be more than coincidence when it happens time and time again.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 11:09

You CAN win a championships by signing free agents. See the Boston Red Sox of 2004. That team has already been dissected in previous posts.

That flimsy argument that you have to build the foundation from within is an EXCUSE. So please stop trotting out the same tired "everybody knows" balderdash. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Annon @ 11:48,

You are right we should have signed Lackey for $18 mil; Beltran for $17 mil Carlos Lee for $17 mil etc. then idiots like you would stop using the same tired ' the Lerners are cheap' baldertdash.

Stop using the 2004 Red Sox as an example because they had tons of inhoue talent before they added their free agents.

Anonymous said...

Name the 2004 Red Sox talent that was home grown.

Mike said...

I'm a recent convert to the "Lerners are cheap" camp. I bought into the whole song and dance of building through the draft and then going after free agents to fill in the holes, but this Adam Dunn situation has opened my eyes. I just no longer believe that the Lerners really intend to spend money on free agents to fill in whatever gaps they perceive left to be filled. And, as for the love for Dunn that Anonymous asked about, his true value to this team is that he's provided outstanding protection in the line-up for Zimmerman in addition to consistently hitting 35-40 HR every year and 100 RBIs. Does he strike out in the clutch too much? Sure he does. He's not perfect, but the Nationals are not going to find someone who can do what he does who will want to play here. Dunn wants to stay and will stay if the Lerners make him a serious offer. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 12:21 - Nataholic on August 13th already blew up the "only way to win a championship is from home grown players" mantra. And he looked at the 2004 Red Sox...

To name a few FA or trades:
3B Bill Mueller
SS Pokey Reece
LF Manny Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
CF Johnny Damon
C Jason Varitek
2B Mark Bellhorn
RF Gabe Kapler
SS Orlando Cabrera
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
OF Dave Roberts

SP Pedo Martinez
SP Derick Lowe
SP Curt Schilling
SP Bronson Arroyo

CP Keith Foulke
RP Mike Timlin
Hmm, that's pretty much the whole team. So I say again, stop spreading nonsense as fact.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Here are some other numbers since 2007 to 2009:

vs ATL: 20-27
vs FLA: 19-34
vs NYM: 23-31
vs PHI: 15-39

This season:

vs ATL: 6-6 Much better team this season than what they had against us last three seasons.
vs FLA: 5-12 We haven't figured out their pitching.
vs NYM: 8-7 We can do better than the last series hinted at.
vs PHI: 5-7 Phillies used to own us the way Marlins are doing now. I am confident that we can play better against the Phils than we have done recently.

Do the Marlins own us this season? Yes. Am I worried sick about it? No.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:03 pm,

he did no such thing. When you include players traded for in the discussion you immediately lose the argument because in order to trade for someone you have to have someone to trade. For example: when the Sox got Pedro Martinez they traded Pavano and Armas when they got Becket they traded Hanley Ramirez.

Try again,

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