Friday, March 23, 2012

Slogging through the dog days of March

US Presswire photo
Jordan Zimmermann allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings today.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- There comes a point every spring when things begin to drag. Opening Day is starting to come into view, but not enough yet to reach out and grab it. The Nationals are experiencing those doldrums right now.

"This is the dog days, right now," manager Davey Johnson said following today's 5-1 loss to the Astros. "Every spring right before I go to the whip with the guys and I'm playing my regular lineup, it's the dog days. I mean, I've seen it my whole life. I kind of expect it."

The Nationals have been slogging their way through it for the last week or so. Today's loss was their ninth in 10 games (they tied the other). The lineup was no-hit by Houston's Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell today for 6 2/3 innings.

"I've seen some bad performances in spring," Johnson said. "But I've never been no-hit."

Even starter Jordan Zimmermann seemed a bit out of sync, allowing four runs and eight hits in five innings. The right-hander admitted the dog days may have gotten the best of him as well.

"Yeah, I say this is the hardest part right now, the last week or so," he said. "You want to get the season started and head up to D.C. and get some new scenery. It's kind of like the last homestretch here where you've got to keep pushing and get to the finish line."

One reason not to read too much into spring training games: Pitchers aren't always approaching hitters the way they will during the regular season.

To wit: Zimmermann today went after Astros No. 8 hitter Jose Altuve with two outs and two on in the bottom of the fourth. Altuve proceeded to drive an RBI single up the middle before Zimmermann retired the pitcher.

"During the season, I probably would have worked around him and gotten to the pitcher," Zimmermann said. "But down here, I'm not going to give in to an 8-hole hitter and not try to get him out. Next start I'm going to take it like it would be during the season and work a little differently."

Indeed, the entire Nationals roster will start to approach games with a bit more urgency next week. Johnson plans to play most of his regulars, often for the full nine innings. And starting pitchers will be stretched out to six innings and up to as many as 100 pitches.

"I don't want them peaking too early," Johnson said. "Next week is where I think you'll see the kind of ballclub we've got."


Cwj said...

Good thread Mark Z.
It is indeed the dog days of March for us posters as well :-)

Excellent quotes by Zimmermann and Davey.

Anonymous said...

JayB's clueless brand of hate never has a dog day. That would be dogging it.

jmorrisa said...

I put this on the WaPo site earlier, so apologies to anyone who's seen it. Regarding the lack of offensive production, here's something that hopefully makes everyone feel a little better. Remember, it's only March.

Prior to today's game, the Nats ranked 27th in MLB in runs scored (69 runs). Although this sounds bad, here's something to consider:
The Phillies rank 22nd (85)
The Braves rank 25th (76)
The Mets rank 28th (63)
The Marlins rank....30th! (48)

In terms of team OPS, the Nats actually rank 2nd in the division with a team OPS of .689.

Phillies: .745
Nats: .689
Braves: .660
Marlins: .632
Mets: .627

(All stats provided from

So although the offensive stats look, and are, abysmal, the entire NL East looks as though it's struggling mightily to produce.

Here's another thing to consider: It's Spring Training. The stats are meaningless. The better players, when playing, are taking warm up swings, while the lesser players are competing to see who gets the last (and least important) spot on the roster.

UnkyD said...

Thanks, jmorrisa!!!

Positively Half St. said...

I would never wish days like to today away, even for the beginning of the season. We'll have our baseball, and we'll have more interesting story lines to pursue. For now, look at the dogwoods in bloom, and imagine Morse and LaRoche at full power. Wish Nick Johnson a roster spot on the O's. Let JayB angry up the blood a little, but keep the crazy optimism of spring training at least one more week.

Scowl at the pre-season predictions that don't put the Nats in the playoffs. Marvel that you could even be in a position to do that.


Cwj said...

Well said Jmorrisa. Thanks for those stats!

bups said...

This isn't slogging the way through dog days, it's sucking the way through sprong training. This will likely carry right into the regular season.

JayB said...

Baseball is not like that DJ and you know do not just decide to care next week and that fixes is a long multi step process to get your swing set and he knows that. You do not step to the plate and hit after weeks of bad at bats just because the games matter now. This is looking just about what you would expect from a team that made no Off Season moves to improve their hitting.

JayB said...

The players know it too and that is why DJ is trying desperately to take the focus off their failure to hit.....the more he says it is all great and fine the more you know it is not.

Hitter said...

JayB, I don't think you are correct. An experienced major-leaguer takes about 35 AB's to "get his swing back." That's about 8 or 9 games. Just about what we have left in Spring Training.

Hitter said...

Here is a quote from an experienced hitter:

Soriano led off the Cubs' four-run second inning with a drive that hit halfway up the scoreboard in left field. He led off the third with a double to the wall in center and added a two-run homer in a four-run fifth.
"I'm a little surprised," Soriano said. "It's only the second game and I'm starting to feel good with my swing and my timing. Normal spring, it takes me like 20, 25 at-bats before I feel good."

Wally said...

Another reason not to put too much stock in what is going on right now. They have played 17 games, which would equate to about 70 plate appearances for a starter in those games. For our 3,4,5,6 hitters, that totals 280 PAs. Best I can tell, they have had 53.

It doesn't mean that they will automatically produce when in, or even that they'll be healthy enough to play (my biggest worry), but we haven't even been going with our 4 best hitters yet.

And it still doesn't change my earlier comment, which is that we shouldn't go north with more than 1 of Bernie, Carroll, Michael and Ankiel. There is no realistic reason to think those guys will hit enough for a substantial amount of playing time.

Wally said...

It might be time to give some real thought to Johnny Damon. In batting alone, he would have been 3rd in wRC+ and 5th in OPS for us last year, in 650 PAs.

The question is obviously his fielding, since he has rarely played the field the last two years and we only have 18 games with a DH. But it might be the right call to sacrifice some fielding for offense.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Damon couldn't throw out Ironsides(Raymond Burr)tagging from third

Wally said...

Then we'll have to make sure Ironsides stays off the bases

JayB said...

This under achieving at the plate is not NJack will tell you and I know from talking with him in past Spring Trainings more than once....Rick E is a great guy, good coach and he is loved by the players.....BUT...teams that consistently under perform at the plate lose their hitting coach.....How nobody across 50 guys in SP games can get at least some hits and score some runs mean Rick is likely to pay the price with his job....just like Randy S.C. did....he was a good coach and it was not his fault but things had to be shaken up.

Sunderland said...

+1/2 St. with a beautiful post. Thanks.

Gardner said...

Thank god the Astros aren't afflicted by the slogs. Don't say there's nothing to do in the doldrums

Steady Eddie said...

JayB, thank you for putting your handle on your posts, unlike the neganons.

That way we know whose posts to scroll past.

Nattydread said...

Ok I hear you. Spring training stats & games don't matter. But 10 no-wins in a row? How come the other teams are getting runs? Spring training doesn't matter to them either.

Is this double-secret trickery into fooling the rest of the league that we're no good? Kind of a "don't show em what you got" strategy?

Please put me out of my misery and start the regular season.

jeeves said...

Yes, JayB may be overly negative, but does not take personal shots at other posters. He's all about baseball, although I hope and believe (I've been accused of being overly positive) that the Nats are in much better shape then he suggests.

Big Cat said...

Yes JayB, you are correct. And its not the lack of productivity that is so disturbing. Its the horrible AB's.....the chasing of sliders bouncing on the ground 8 inches outside, taking third strikes right down the middle, swinging at first pitch curve balls and tapping meekly back to the pitcher. It is pretty much just "not having a clue" up there which is so disturbing.

Jim Webster said...

OK we've seen some weak performances down here this year, but nothing to rival our first foray to Viera in 2006 when Marlins dunked us 21-12 and Frank Robinson said it was the worst game he'd ever seen. looking for much better next week

sjm308 said...

I actually read JayB. He can be repetitive and negative, but I do appreciate the rare. Post like 9:41pm where he stops ranting and actually makes a valid point.

To his frustration, I still think we will be ok. Not great offensively but better than last year. Full season of Zimmerman & Zimmermann, improvement from at least two of three from Ramos, Desi, & Danny. Werth goes toward his career numbers rather than regressing, & how can you not like Gio. & Jackson over Livo & Marquis?

Jeeves also pointed out that unlike Anons, neganons, & bold Anons (yes Peric that includes you), JayB does not take shots at others. That is appreciated.

Go nats!!

m20832 said...

OK, I'll be positive and know that DJ will be able to whip his starters into shape before they head north.


Theophilus said...

Somebody can check me on this but didn't last year's Nats team win something like 9 out of the last 11 ST games?

fast eddie said...

Thanks to JayB for keeping it real. We need a dose of reality whenever playoffs are mentioned.
Maybe ST stats are meaningless, but last year's team performance says it all: .242 (27th) and .309 OBP (24th). This team is essentially unchanged from last year's.
Any optimism has to come from hoped-for improvement in the starting eight.

Jim Webster said...

Will perchance "The retired journalist said" be above the center entrance at Space Coast Stadium Sunday or Monday? This one will be in back row Sec 109.

Theophilus said...

There are any number of subtle ways in which ST conspires against hitters. First, the convention that only 3 or 4 position regulars, at most, make road trips. As a result, almost nobody starts consecutive games. Second, when pitchers are working 2, 3 or 4 innings, max, the hitter sees the same pitcher once or twice, max, never three times in the same game. Third, the pitcher who the hitter has seen over a couple or more seasons is working on something new -- so, instead of the change-up you expect, he throws some new kind of splitter. Fourth, instead of Ramos hitting seventh or eighth, its Solano or Leon and what reason does any pitcher have to give the 6th or 7th guy anything worth hitting? Under those circumstances, how is anyone supposed to find their groove? So far, thanks to injuries and the aforesaid idiosyncrasies of ST, the Syracuse and Harrisburg rosters, and the soon-to-be waived or DFA'd, have as many or more ABs than the regulars. Hitting might just as well be determined with a random numbers table. Panic if they're 4-17 on April 30.

Steady Eddie said...

Mark does a perfectly good job of "keeping it real" and most to the point, he's onsite and able to, you know -- see the team perform. The subject of two of yesterday's posts was weak on field performance.

Big Cat, how is it you know where all these pitches are? We get maybe one out of every five games televised, and because it's almost always the other team's feed, they're usually interviewing someone from the other team when our guys are at bat.

Sure the recent offensive woes are depressing but even in Viera we're generally fielding teams that are at least half marginal (bench) players or minor leaguers, with the few starters recognizing that they're not going to get anything decent to hit but wanting to get their cuts in rather than caring if they get on base.

A poster in another thread made the real point: what's worrisome is much less what the guys on the field are doing than the absence of the guys we haven't been able to put on the field. And on that, which is genuinely worrisome, we just don't know at all yet (that is, injuries) what the Opening Day story will be.

NatsNut said...

from the last thread and complaints about Rizzo and DJ "being honest" with us. I try to remember that when they talk to the media they aren't only talking to us, they're also talking to the players, other GMs, etc.

@222, Yea, the tix are a little boring, but I can hardly tell because right now all I see are my 20 tickets to bliss. =)


Section 222 said...
@NatsNut -- congrats. So what do you think of the pictures on the tickets? Not much creativity or variety as opposed to past years. Just Morse, Strasburg, Zim, and Werth. Over and over and over again.

Scooter said...

Isn't that the name of your memoir, NatsNut? Twenty Tickets to Bliss?

ehay2k said...

One more thing about ST and hitting in particular, highlighted by Davey's quote about liking the approach of his hitters, and JordanZ' note about his pitching approach : if the hitters are taking a regular season approach, it may hurt them in ST from a purely statistical perspective.

The number 8 hitter with two outs, is trying not to get out. He can almost assume he will see no good pitches in a regular season game. But in ST, he may know that his pitcher Is not going to bat the next inning anyway no matter what. So he might swing away.
The opposing pitcher may not care, as Zimmermann did not, and throw strikes at him. That means if the hitter takes a spring training approach and the pitcher does not, he is swinging and makes an out. But if the opposite is true and, if he takes a regular season approach he is not swinging and make an out on strikes. I realize that this is just 1 example but I'm sure you can come up with many more reasons why spring training statistics do not count.

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