July’s MESPYs

Sometimes, the writing business is hard.  But when difficulty and despair creep in, I remember the fans, or more accurately, the fan who calls out for July’s edition of the MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards.  Sniff.  That’s what makes it all worth while.

AL MVP:  Mike Trout.  Somewhere, Tim Salmon is crying, realizing the gig is up as the top fish to ever play for the Angels.  Trout put up a monster July, hitting .392 with 10 home runs, 32 runs scored (32!), 23 RBIs, and 9 stolen bases, just because he can.  His 2.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 33 percent better than the next highest in July, Ryan Zimmerman’s 2.1 WAR.

AL CY Young:  David Price.  WAR will tell you that Felix Hernandez had the edge, but that was due in large part to King Felix having one additional start.  Take that away, and the Price was Right snitches!

AL Rookie of the Month:  Trout.  I knew fish was brain food but I didn’t realize it made thinking this easy.

NL MVP:  Ryan Zimmerman.  Andrew McCutchen must be starting to feel like the Susan Lucci of the MESPY awards at this point, but Zimm edged the Dread Pirate in home runs, runs, and RBIs.  Also, McCutchen’s surprising total of zero stolen bases and Zimm’s edge in defensive metrics pushed Ryan over the top in WAR, 2.1 to 2.0.

NL CY Young:  Jordan Zimmermann.  After the July JZ had, I can’t help but wonder if the other Jaz-Z wrote A Star is Born about Zimm:

And I am one, of one

Can’t you see just how long my run?

NL Rookie of the Month:  It would be a real dogfight between Michael Fiers of the Brewers and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs (both 1.0 WAR), if it weren’t for Rizzo accumulating 153 at-bats last season with the Padres.  According to those fun-busters at MLB, that’s 23 too many to be considered a rookie.  Sigh.

Nationals’ MVP:  Ryan Zimmerman.  I guess I was talking about Zimm’s monster July around the office so much I shouldn’t have been surprised when I overheard management discussing whether cortisone shots would increase audit productivity.

Nationals’ CY Young:  Jordan Zimmermann.  Six starts.  Six quality starts, with four wins banked.  All he does is throw darts, though his xFIP (3.12) in July does leave some room for an upward ERA correction (.97 ERA in July).

Nationals’ Rookie of the Month:  Steve Lombardozzi.  No Nats rookie really shined in July, with Lombardozzi pacing all rookies with a 0.3 WAR.  But with Ian Desmond going down, Lombard has swung a nice bat and picked it on a pretty consistent basis.  I can think of far worse things.  Like being the sap donning the Teddy Roosevelt costume everyday, running around in a thousand-degree heat, never winning the Presidents race.  Yeah, that would make me hot and bitter.  Hot and bitter.

And that’s all folks!

They Keep Rolling Along

That’s what the Marlins broadcasters said at the end of this afternoon’s 4-1 victory over Miami, after Stephen Strasburg spun six strong shutout innings in leading the Nationals to a series victory.  Oh, and because the swordfish, and not the diva marlin, is his favorite large saltwater fish, he threw in a two-run single for kicks and giggles.  Keep rolling along!

Game ball(s):  Strasburg.  After his two-RBI single in the bottom of the second, Carlos Lee was overheard saying to Stephen at first, “.363.  You’re batting .363?  I tell all the ladies I weigh 363.  Sigh.”

Goat(s):  Ricky Nolasco.  Stat-heads (and yes, I am oftentimes one) have said for years that Nolasco is a better pitcher than his numbers have shown.  He has gotten unlucky, they say.  Well, either God has a sick sense of humor, or it is just the case that Nolasco is just not that good of a pitcher.  When reached for comment, God said, “Nolasco pitches.  I laugh.”

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  Drew Storen.  With Tyler Clippard needing a day off after making appearances the last three days, Storen came in with a three-run lead and shut the door on his first save of the season.  He hung a few pitches, but all in all, looked pretty good for only his ninth game of the season.

Current Record:  65-43

Comeback

No, that’s not the title to the blog post announcing that I’m finally getting back to covering the National’s run towards the playoffs.  And I really mean it this time.  No, that’s what the Nats pulled off last night against the Miami Marlins, after a sloppy start put Washington behind the eight ball.

Trailing 6-4 with one out in the bottom of the eighth, thankfully, the Marlins continued their second-half spectacular implosion, with Mike Dunn botching Carlos Lee’s toss on Adam LaRoche’s sure ground-out.  So, instead of two outs with no one on, Dunn proceeded to walk Jayson Werth to put two on with only one out, thus limiting the harm that came when newly-acquired Kurt Suzuki then struck out.  Four consecutive hits, including home runs by Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper then totaled six unearned runs for Washington, flipping the scoreboard to a much more attractive 10-6 lead.  Tyler Clippard would cough up a harmless run in the top of the ninth to secure the victory, and with it, the Nats were able to stretch their lead in the NL East over the Atlanta Braves to three games.

Game ball(s):  LaRoche.  Ho, hum.  I guess Adam got bored with just hitting one home run a game, so he went all Doublemint on the Marlins.  Last four games:  8 for 16, 4 home runs, 7 RBIs, and 6 runs scored.  This is just what Adam does.  He gets crazy hot for stretches.  Good thing his current stretch has been the entire second half so far.

Goat(s):  Dunn.  I love when pitchers with a 1.63 WHIP come into a game.  You bring the WHIP, you get the WHIP.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  Espinosa.  He is still only 25, which has its ups (three-run home run to push the Nats into the lead) and downs (two costly errors that led to three runs).  I worry about how that will play come the playoffs, but then again, you could say that about a number of Nats come October.  I’m sorry.   I’m an auditor.  I breathe and I worry.

Current Record:  64-43

Back in the Saddle

After a long weekend in which golf courses around the greater Big Bend area were subject to brutalization not witnessed since Jean van de Velde took to the 18th at Carnoustie, I have to say that it is great to be back in the saddle.  Well, at least in terms of focusing back on baseball.  And today was a bit of a big day around MLB, with the non-waiver trade deadline coming and passing at 4pm today, with nary a move coming from DC.  Although there has been a lot of smoke emanating from the nation’s capital in recent weeks regarding possible trades involving the Nationals, Washington sat pat today, with team owner Mark Lerner announcing that, “We’re going all the way with what we’ve got in this room.”

It goes without saying that I am not privy to what possible deals were or were not being discussed by Nats management today and in recent days and weeks.  But if I were to entertain the notion that all of the rumored deals had a grain of truth attached to them, then I still have to say that I’m glad the Nationals are closing with the boys who brought them this far.  Sure, would it have been nice to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a bucket of balls?  Naturally.  But the likelihood of prying Salty from the Red Sox on the cheap rates somewhere up there with me prying Gisele Bündchen from Tom Brady.  Probably not going to happen.  In a town where constantly acting, know-it-all nanny staters have come to regulate the flow of water in toilets, it is refreshing to see it recognized that sometimes, doing nothing is the best course of action.  This is the team, after all, that has the best record in baseball coming into tonight.  Still sounds like pretty goods odds to me.

Nationals’ top trade deadline concern is improving middle infield depth

At least that’s the word from a source to the Washington Post.  Although I gave up rumor mongering after it turned out that a band of wild monkeys was not the Y2K revolution vanguard, I have to say that among the various whispers about possible deadline acquisitions for the Nats (starting pitcher, catcher, etc.), this one I cannot only see happening, I can feel my head nod in approval.  At least with the concept.  Let’s not go crazy and give up Anthony Rendon for Nick Punto.  But losing Ian Desmond, who had been the team’s hitting MVP, to a torn oblique, does leave the Nationals one bump and bruise away from a real serious problem up the middle.  The prospect of Desmond being out until the end of August (if not longer; oblique injuries are notoriously slow to heal) is already quite a challenge.  The Nats would be prudent to try to make sure they don’t turn a challenge into a near impossibility.

Split Decision

It is sort of remarkable to think that after all that has transpired over the first two days and three games of the Nationals-Braves series, that Washington actually can salvage a series split later today.  But that is exactly the position the Nationals find themselves in, even after:

  • Friday night’s epic collapse
  • Being throttled by Ben Sheets and Atlanta’s pitching staff in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader
  • Watching Bryce Harper limp off in the very same game after fouling a pitch off his left ankle
  • Falling behind 2-0 in yesterday’s night cap, which featured…
  • John Lannan, he of the 4.89 Triple-A ERA, toe the rubber to try to stem the bleeding.

Even Barack Obama thought there was no hope.  But somehow, someway, the Nats dug deep and battled to a 5-2 victory, and now improbably stand on the cusp of making this a no harm, no foul engagement for the top of the NL East standings.

Game ball(s):  Lannan.  Things still may be cozier in TomKat land than they are between John and the Nats, but Lannan pitched a splendidly professional game leading Washington to victory.  What was most impressive is how he settled down after surrendering two runs in the first.  It could have gotten ugly, like when that girl you know keeps putting on makeup and she isn’t applying to clown college.  Hey, hey! No, no!

Goat(s):  The doctor who fixed Ben Sheets. This isn’t how the script was supposed to go for Ben:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  The rest of the Nationals team.  Yep, in a similar vein to yesterday’s tribute to the Braves hitters, each and every member of the team.  Sure, Steve Lombardozzi went 0-5 and stranded five base runners.  And Adam LaRoche pulled off the same feat with one less at-bat.  Still, the Nationals needed the win in a desperate way and managed to summon the collective fortitude to pull it off.  Congrats.  I will put down the Mao literature now.

Current Record:  54-39

Collapse

Collapse.  Last night around 8:30, I thought that word would best describe my head hitting the pillow as I fell into a deep slumber, reaping the fruits of several consecutive nights of poor sleep.  On the heels of a Ryan Zimmerman three-run home run that put the Nats up 6-0 against the Braves, it never crossed my mind that come the morning, that word would have a wholly different meaning.

Alas, before the sun peaked above the horizon, a check of the box scores revealed the word’s new meaning, a description of Washington throwing away a NINE! run lead to Atlanta in an eventual brutal 11-10 extra inning loss.  For once, my lazy gene paid off, shielding me from what has to be one of the worst losses in National’s franchise history.  And I’m drawing that conclusion from the Washington Post and a box score.  I shudder to think what I would be feeling if the Sandman hadn’t called me.

Game ball(s):  The Atlanta Braves hitters.  Yep, each and every one of them.  You don’t rally from nine runs down, even with the opposition bullpen imploding, without showing a tenacity for winning that is worthy of a game ball.  Make that eight game balls.

Goat(s):  Davey Johnson.  While there were a lot of pigs making a mess in the pen, I will allow Davey’s own words to claim the award: ”Arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed in my life,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. ”I’ve never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching and it’ll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did.”

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  The only consolation I see right now is that in less than five hours, the Nats face off again against the Braves, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.  That’s the magic of baseball.  Tomorrow usually offers the chance at quick redemption.

Current Record:  53-38