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Quantitative Losing

Quantitative Losing.jpg
I guess on a day in which Helicopter Ben Bernanke dropped by Nationals Park, it was only fitting that bad news dropped for the Nationals like the US dollar.

The Nationals day started off with, if you will pardon the terrible expression, a real kick to the stomach with news that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will miss six weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery to repair a tear.  Out since April 10th with what was first diagnosed as an abdominal strain, without Zimmerman, the anemic Nats lineup figures to post many more punchless nights like last night’s two hit, one run breakout against a wild Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants.

To illustrate the bareness of the Nationals lineup, despite a total of nine walks, three hit batters, and a wild pitch, the Giants held the Nationals to just one run. Heck, the Giants pitching staff was so generous that they allowed the Nationals to load the bases three times, but still the Nats scored only once and stranded a total of 12 runners on base. According to the AP article I read this morning, STATS LLC reports that the Giants are the first team since 1955 to put 12 or more runners on base via the walk or hit batter yet yield two or fewer runs. Awesome.

Still, the Nationals had a chance to win the game. Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, manager Jim Riggleman made the self-admitted inexplicable decision to have starter John Lannan to first walk righty Eli Whiteside to load the bases and then allowed Lannan to face pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff, who he promptly walked to allow the winning run to score. All the while, Tyler Clippard stood waiting and ready in the bullpen. After the game, Riggleman acknowledged what every sentient Nationals fan was thinking: should have brought in Clippard to face Whiteside.

Alas, he didn’t and the Nationals coughed away a game the Giants were trying in every which way to give them.

Game 26 Natties:

Game ball(s): Ben Bernanke. Nice to see him reinvest some of the Fed’s printed money into the local economy.

Goat(s): There were plenty of worthy candidates but Adam LaRoche takes it home. 0-4, stranding eight runners on base, including with a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the game. I know he is traditionally a slow starter, but I have a hunch his shoulder is bothering his bat a lot more than anyone is letting on.

Bryce Harper is a long ways off: Henry Rodriguez. Finally, the young fireballer made his Nationals debut and what a debut it was. A perfect top of the ninth with two punch outs, while hitting a 100mph on the radar gun. He may not always know where it is going to go, but neither does Chad Gaudin and at least Rodriguez has upside.

Current Record: 12-14

Marquis Night

If you had told me a little more than two hours ago that the Nationals would take down the Giants tonight, I would suggest that you had been hanging out with Ryan Mallett recently. If you had told me the Giants would be the team on the wrong end of a shutout, then I would have concluded that Janoris Jenkins slipped into your party as well. With Tim Lincecum toeing the rubber for the defending World Champs, and the Nationals proclivity for the strikeout, by all appearances it was going to be a tough night.

Indeed it was. For the Giants.

In 96 pitches, for one night, Jason Marquis outclassed the two-time Cy Young award winner, thoroughly stifling the Giants bats. Allowing only five hits and no walks, while tossing in an impressive seven strikeouts for the ground ball machine, the Nationals got all of the offense they needed with a two run homer from Laynce Nix in the bottom of the second. For good measure, Marquis brought the lumber too, driving in the third and final run in the bottom of the fifth, plating Ian Desmond with a single. All in all, a great night for the Washington Nationals.

Game 25 Natties

Game ball(s): Jason Marquis did it all tonight. Masterful pitching and even drove in one off The Franchise.

Goat(s): Any time you can beat Tiny Tim, there are no goats. God bless every one of those Nats!

Bryce Harper is a ways off: Ian Desmond. Who knew Manny was on to something. Having a kid does spark the bat.

Current Record: 12-13  

Sue Me, Sue You, Sue Everybody

Hey, since when did this blog turn into a weekly? Next thing you know, you are going to start charging for this worthless commie-pinko rag like The New York Times.

Fair question. And I probably deserve that one. And now is probably not the time to claim that I’ve been in seclusion dealing with Chad Gaudin being placed on the disabled list. So back to more regular Nationals blogging it is.

Last night was a double-win around these parts, with the Nationals getting back on the winning track with a 4-3 victory over the Mets and my beloved Washington Redskins actually making a potentially savvy move in the draft, trading down six spots with the Jaguars, landing their second round pick and Ryan Kerrigan in the process. What’s next? Dan Snyder will fully turn the team over to football people? Please don’t sue!

Game 24 Natties

Game ball(s): Ian Desmond. The new dad homered and tripled, powering the Nationals to victory.

Mike Morse. You could live with the sub-par defense if he hit. He isn’t hitting.

Bryce Harper is a long ways off: Can I say again Mr. Snyder how much I loved the Mark Carrier signing?

Current record: 11-13

Slouching towards mediocrity

So, word has it that baseball is barreling towards an expanded playoff format in 2012, with one additional wild-card team being added from both leagues. Figures. From a Commissioner who once oversaw a tie in a baseball game, comes another creative stab at muddying up winners from losers.

I know the old cliche. Money makes the world go around. And so it is without a doubt that the primary, secondary, tertiary, heck the whole lot of reasons behind this move is to make everyone involved in baseball that much richer. And, as a free-market capitalist, I’m all for it. But, as a baseball fan, I’m not as keen on baseball joining the rest of the sports world, and well, society, in slouching towards mediocrity.

As the article notes, right now 8 out 30, or 26.7% (hey, I’m a CPA) of teams in baseball make the playoffs. In the NFL, it is 12 out of 32 (37.5%), and in the NHL and NBA, it is 16 out of 30 (53.3%). Under the new playoff format, one-third of teams in major league baseball would make the playoffs. Granted, that would still leave Major League Baseball having the most meritorious of playoffs. But just barely so. And in the process, while the sport may gain riches, it does so at the expense of diluting the reward for regular season excellence.

I recognize that sports is a play world. An escape for adults to be kids and kids, well, to still be kids. And so baseball, as an entertainment product, is charged with delivering the greatest show possible for the greatest profit possible. So, an extra round, with additional people in the stands, more eyes watching the television, means big money and happiness for the fans of two more teams each year.

But I can’t help but ask that when 1 out of every 3 teams makes the playoffs, what exactly is a playoff spot a reward for? And after you throw out quad-A teams like the Pirates and Royals, for all intents and purposes, under the new format, basically 1 out of every 2 professional baseball teams will make the playoffs.

Maybe this move was inevitable. Maybe one day all major sports will have one giant playoff where every team gets in and no one keeps score. Will everyone be richer? Yes, especially if you appreciate the yuan. But will baseball be better? I don’t think so.

Rain, rain

go away, come again another day, two titans of baseball want to play.

Well, that’s sweet. However, the upshot of the Nationals-Pirates game being postponed tonight is that I can spend a little time on the Commissioner’s apparent desire to water down the MLB playoffs, following the illustrious path laid down by America’s other major sports and their “everyone gets” in playoffs. But I’ll save my rancor for that idea for another post.

Double your pleasure, double your fun

Mmmmmm…Doublemint. Great gum for at least 30 seconds. Anyhoos. Yesterday was a banner day for the Nationals, sweeping their doubleheader against the Brewers in dare I say, easy fashion. In the process, the Nationals also swept the series and pushed their record above .500 for the first time all season. Double your pleasure, double your fun.

Game 14 & 15 Natties

Game ball(s): Danny Espinosa who drove in 6 of the Nationals 13 runs. He only had two hits, but made them count, tripling in three and homering in another three. And Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez both deserve kudos as well, both posting seven quality innings. Too often a doubleheader spells taxing trouble for a team’s bullpen but not so yesterday.

Goat(s): Yovani Gallardo. Every step he takes towards becoming an ace is matched by an almost equal step backwards. The zero walks, though, is a good sign that he should still be great one day. Oh, and what the hay. Chad Gaudin. Another two-thirds of an inning, two runs allowed showing. He’s the Ron Popeil of bad relievers.

Bryce Harper is a ways off: Drew Storen. The good doppelganger of Gaudin, who went two clean innings for the save in game two.

Current record: 8-7