With the Nationals off tonight (there is no truth to the rumor that in a sweaty act of desperation, the Nats offered to play the Giants in San Francisco), I figured it was time for another edition of quick hits:
- First things first. Congratulations are in order for Washington’s All-Star game representatives, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Ian Desmond. It is only fitting that the Nationals landed two starting pitchers on the squad, given the dominance of their starting five through the first half of the season. And Desmond’s selection by manager Tony LaRussa was a very nice surprise. Given some of the putrid selections in both leagues, it was good to see a player not among the fan’s top eight shortstops get selected, as Desmond has been among the NL’s best shortstops.
- Now what to do about Bryce Harper being on the final five-man All-Star ballot? He says that he’d vote for Chipper Jones. For still basically being a kid, he is handling this moment with class. The most interesting thing about all of this is how MLB leaves so much about a glorified exhibition game they’ve made mean so much up to things like a fan vote. And that’s why, while I applaud the kid’s reverence, I actually think Chipper would be the last guy I would vote for. If possible home field advantage is on the line, unless 28 year-old Larry is walking through the tunnel, I would rather take a chance on the kid. Think about that while you go vote here.
- I am bit of a stathead so this was pleasing to my senses: Nationals second in SI.com/FanGraphs Power Poll.
- And a fond farewell to one of baseball’s greatest joys of the early and mid-2000’s, as Dontrelle Willis announced his retirement from baseball today. Living in Florida, I’ve gotten to see a lot of Marlins games on television. And there was a time when a Dontrelle Willis start was must-see tv, if only for the simple pleasure of watching the man smile on the mound. He truly loved what he was doing and while the last few years he has been a wild shell of himself, for a brief moment, he was one of baseball’s better starters.
From Mike Axisa over at FanGraphs comes a look at the Nationals and what their potential needs may be to continue their run.
I’m not sure I’m on board with the Nationals needing to augment their bullpen, especially assuming (I know, I know) Drew Storen comes back healthy. I know a team can never have enough good arms, but in the grand scheme of things, the much greater priority for Washington is how to generate more offense. Axisa does make it clear adding an impact bat should be priority number one, though I’m not keen on a lot of the names he throws out in the article, especially at the catcher position. In my mind, if your are in the market for offense, then go for offense. Pretty much anyone the team could get to replace Jesus Flores wouldn’t offer much in the way of a run-creation upgrade. Focus on a corner outfielder and heaven help us, get Ryan Zimmerman’s bat going.
I had a cupcake today for lunch. On that thin, overly sugared basis, I’m playing nice and refraining yet again from posting my Chien-Ming Wang I told you so post. If it hadn’t been for the sprinkles on top, I would have been all over another poor start from Wang today (5 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, 1 HBP, and 2 ER in a 3-1 loss to the Mets…and he was lucky to only allow two runs given the putridness of the first 4 numbers in that line) and how the Nationals voluntarily elected to downgrade when they swapped Wang for Ross Detwiler. But there were sprinkles and they were chocolate.
On another note, to put a bow on yesterday’s post, I realized after reading this piece from Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs that I gave short shrift to Ian Desmond’s big game Tuesday night, which in one sense, was one for the history books.
Considering the number of hits this blog gets a day, I’m pretty confident that Gio Gonzalez isn’t among one of the regular readers. Sad emoticon. But by all appearances, he is pitching like a man possessed to prove that this schlub is as adept at making baseball predictions as Marion Barry is at making racial amends.
Gio was simply dominant again last night, allowing only one hit and striking out ten over seven innings, leading the Nationals to a 7-2 win over the Braves and the series sweep. I will say it now: There has not been a better pitcher in the National League through the first two months of the season than Gio, and I daresay that there has not been a better pitcher in all of baseball. Will it continue?
Yo no digo nada.
Game ball(s): Gio. For a nice little look at Gio’s success so far, take a gander at this article courtesy of FanGraphs.
Goat(s): The injury bug, which may have taken down Jesus Flores. The team is saying it is just a tight hamstring and he may not miss any action. I’ve watched baseball long enough to know that this means he is just as likely to miss two weeks. Shakes fist in frustration.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Boy, the title of this award is looking sillier and sillier each day. All Harper did last night was go 2 for 4, extend his hit streak to seven games and toss in his second home run in as many games.
Current Record: 29-18
A lot has been written about Josh Hamilton’s historic four-homer game last night. However, I’m not sure any tidbit I’ve come across has been both as amazing and depressing as this:
When reached for comment, a Padres spokesman said, “Pray for us.”
h/t Dave Cameron of FanGraphs
With the Nationals series opener against the Diamondbacks scheduled to start in less than a half hour, I figured for kicks and giggles that I would take a look back at the April that was in MLB and hand out totally hollow and meaningless awards, all for the entertainment of the masses. I think I will call them the MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards.
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton. The only caveat with Hamilton is whether he can hold up for close to 162 games. His current back injury is a small red flag but his April was monster nevertheless. He led the AL in RBIs, home runs, and was second in average and runs scored. No wonder his 1.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to FanGraphs was second in baseball.
AL CY Young: Jake Peavy. He paces all pitchers with a 1.5 WAR and has posted a quality start in each of his five outings. Oh, and he belongs to the same caveat club as Hamilton. It’s a party inside!!!
AL Rookie of the Year: Yu Darvish. I’m not too keen in handing out a ROY to a player who has already played seven professional seasons, but hey, these awards are fake anyways. After two shaky outings to start his Ranger career, Darvish has been quite filthy.
NL MVP: Matt Kemp. That is all.
NL CY Young: Stephen Strasburg. Oh, that is like Beethoven to the ears. Five quality starts in five appearances, second in the NL in strikeouts, and he leads all NL pitchers with a 1.3 WAR.
NL Rookie of the Year: Kirk Niewenhuis. I don’t know what was more shocking. That it only took me two attempts to spell his name correctly or that Kirk Niewenhuis! is the early leader. He edges out Lance Lynn of the Cardinals but the yada yada in me could see it going either way.
Nationals’ MVP & CY Young: Strasburg. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the best pitcher on a team that has been led to its good start by its pitching should take home both awards. However, Adam LaRoche does deserve a Reserve MESPY for being by far and away the Nationals best positional player.
Nationals’ ROY: Bryce Harper. Lombardozzi has perhaps done a bit more, but I’m hoping Harper hears about his MESPY and in a moment of tearful gratefulness, hires me as his CPA.
And that’s all folks!
The inner-stat nerd in me couldn’t resist passing this article from Ben Duronio of SI.com along, which attempts to rank teams using the Wins Above Replacement Level metric. Well worth putting your pens in the pocket protector for.
For what it is worth, I think the metric is pretty close to dead-on about the Nationals. They are definitely a plus .500 club, primarily on the back of a great pitching staff. But the chances of the staff maintaining a FIP* under 3 are quite remote, so the hitting needs to pick it up in order to keep the Nationals rolling.
And for Pirate fans out there. I’m sorry. The stats only confirm the awfulness the eyes see on the field.
*Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. Read more at FanGraphs here: