It is just past 6:30pm on the east coast, the Nationals are up on the San Francisco Giants, and I may actually be awake to see the end. I guess G.K. Chesterton was right when he said that the most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. Anyhoo, enough about my old-man struggles at the tender age of 33. Let’s roll out a Wednesday edition of quick hits:
- Sure, Madison Bumgarner throttled the Nats lineup last night, and Brandon Belt did most of the damage at the plate. But like Harry Reid, facts be damned. I knew given how well Washington has been playing, the Giants must have been cheating. And well, what do we have here: Giants OF Cabrera suspended for positive drug test. Amateur hour at the comedy club aside, this news shouldn’t really come as a complete shock to any baseball fan. The fact that Melky Cabrera, Melky Cabrera was being talked about as a possible National League MVP candidate, on the heels of last year’s breakout season that also came out of the blue, should have been so brazen a sign that even a Kardashian would have blushed using it. I guess it is just as true today as it has always been. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
- I know. Just what you want to read more about. Stephen Strasburg and the great innings watch. Please God let me read more about what Kate Middleton (erm, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) wore to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics! Anything but Strasburg and pitch counts! But I must. From Will Carroll of SI.com, a writer I respect a lot for his coverage of medical issues, comes this great little blurb: Strasburg plan little better than educated guess. And again, the money quote:
All in all, lowered innings totals don’t automatically equal health, and similar pitchers have gone more innings without apparent issue. Without the benefit of data, the Nats (and the rest of these teams) are guessing. That’s not good enough.
Okay. I’m done with beating the supposed dying arm of Strasburg. Well, at least for tonight.
- Oh, and I just finished watching Felix Hernandez pitch a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Don’t worry, I’ve got the Nats on my computer. Back to King Felix. On days like today, he sure does wear that nickname well. However, is it just me, or do the Rays seem to get a no-hit every two months?
Okay Sean Burnett. Back-to-back hits allowed to the Giants in the bottom of the eighth. Interesting strategy to hold on to the Nats four-run lead. Like the Pence ground out. More conventional. I guess this is my sign to wrap this column up.
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.
Hmmmmm…by the looks of things around here the past few days, one might actually start to believe that I’ve been at the Save Lindsay Lohan vigil. Alas, as heroic as that may seem, it has been a mere virus that I’ve tended to, with equal parts sleep and Alka-Seltzer. It didn’t help that the Yankees, with an assist from Timmy, rolled Washington in their three-game series, displaying a scary-deep and patient lineup and strong bullpen the likes of which the Nats have to be ready to defeat if they want to make hay in the playoffs. The good thing is that the series took place in mid-June rather than October, and hopefully by then, the mandatory retirement clauses in some of their stars contracts will have kicked in. Until then, allow me to make up for my silence with a Tuesday edition of links you definitely maybe want to read:
- Boy, was I wrong on R.A. Dickey in fantasy baseball. From Jon Wertheim of SI.com, a great story on the amazing season so far for the man and his amazing knuckleball.
- Put me in the camp that believes there is little doubt that Roger Clemens ate up steroids like fat kids take to cake. And while I will have to trust that the jury got the verdict right in his perjury trial (which does seem like it was a waste of Chinese taxpayer money), I think Tom Verducci of SI.com is right when he says the verdict won’t really help Clemens with Hall of Fame voters. Nor should it, because not being able to prove the man lied and obstructed justice doesn’t equate to proving that Clemens never took performance-enhancing drugs.
- And from Federal Baseball, comes a good discussion about Ryan Zimmeran’s struggles at the dish and whether he is truly 100% healthy.
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:
It is still nearly three hours to what should be the first pitch of the series finale between the Nats and Marlins, but the game has already been declared a washout. I guess the weather folks were serious about that 100% chance of rain in the DC area today.
With the Nationals scheduled to depart later today on a six-game road trip beginning in San Diego, the extra day off should have its benefits, allowing a hard-worked bullpen to rest while also allowing Ryan Zimmerman to perhaps only miss one game with his aching shoulder. Around here though, the work goes on, with the first-edition of postponement readings being rolled out for everyone’s Sunday leisurely perusal:
- Hats off to Philip Humber on his perfect game. It was great that FOX finally decided that baseball exists outside of the New York-Boston corridor, cutting away to Humber’s gem in the bottom of the ninth, though not before relegating it to a mini-picture in picture. Seriously. Anywho, Tom Verducci over at SI.com had a good piece describing exactly how much of a pitching era we are in, which Humber’s perfection is a symptom of. Humber perfect game testifies to pitcher’s era that’s not ending soon.
- After reading Verducci’s article, perhaps this work from Joe Lemire shouldn’t come as a surprise, though I would concur with Lemire that one shouldn’t draw too many conclusions based on such a small sample. Early results show rate of Three True Outcomes on record pace.
- And though it comes with perhaps the most generic headline in history, this commentary by ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian is still worth your time. Nationals have a quality pitching staff.