I’m in a celebratory mood this morning. The Nationals rolled off another win last night, and in the process, put another curly w in the box score for Jordan Zimmermann. Baseball is a funny, funny game. Zimm goes winless between late May and late June and now sees superlative pitching being rewarded in his last two starts, with the Nats offense knocking in 20 runs combined. And of course, it’s our nation’s Independence Day, and while I still have time to write without IRS compulsion, what better way to celebrate than with June’s MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards:
AL MVP: Mike Trout. Robinson Cano had a monster June, but on the day we celebrate standing up to the big bully on the block (alliteration!), I’m not going to shirk away from my disdain for the Evil Empire. So it goes to Trout, who actually edged Cano out in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), 2.2 to 2.0. And Trout did this at the tender age of 20. Wow.
AL CY Young: Hiroki Kuroda. Dang. Well, the British did give us the Beatles.
AL Rookie of the Month: Trout. I hate to be a Benedict Arnold on such a hallowed day, but what I said in May’s MESPYs hasn’t changed. Trout has been baseball’s best rookie and at this pace, could be in the running for the AL’s best player by season’s end.
NL MVP: R.A. Dickey. Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto both deserve kudos for tremendous months, but Dickey taking home the award just goes to show you how dominate he was during June. He posted the second best WAR in baseball (2.1), a sub-one ERA (.93), a .60 WHIP, struck out 55 batters while only walking 8, and went 5-0. Oh, and he did this throwing a knuckleball.
NY CY Young: Dickey. If only I had a Forever Lazy this would be the perfect day.
NL Rookie of the Month: Andrelton Simmons. Bryce, I still want to be your accountant. But while you hit a bit of a soft patch in June, the Braves shortstop batted .333, showed slick fielding skills (alliteration!), and posted a nice 1.6 WAR. I’m going to take a long walk off a short bridge now.
Nationals’ MVP: Ian Desmond. He crushed another one out last night off of Tim Lincecum, which was just more of the same for the Nats’ All-Star shortstop. I’d like to think this is all because of my talk with Ian at Spring Training two years ago. Oh, but he didn’t do so well last year. I see. My silence is golden.
Nationals’ CY Young: Stephen Strasburg. A 2.25 xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) points to his 3.09 June ERA being unlucky. But a 13.37 k/9 and six quality starts demonstrate that even without luck, Strasburg is simply dominant.
Nationals’ Rookie of the Month: Tyler Moore. I can see why I got into auditing and not public relations. That depressing thought aside, in 68 fewer plate appearances, Moore had the same number of home runs as Bryce Harper (4), same number of RBIs (11), batted a robust .425, and topped Harper in WAR 1.0 to 0.6. I hate myself.
And that’s all folks!
12 runs on 21 hits. It took the thin air at Coors Field and baseball’s worse pitching staff (as measured by team ERA), but my gosh at last the Nats offense went nuts and posted double-digits on the scoreboard. After Washington struggled yet again at the plate Monday night, and then Stephen Strasburg melted down after plunking Marco Scutaro, I told myself to take a deep breath, refrain from penning something in frustration, and wait and see if Tuesday would bring better things. Oh, how I love when procrastination and rage make for a merry outcome!
Game ball(s): Edward Calvin Kendall. Could have handed out a half-dozen game balls to actual Nats, but Nancy Reagan started this nation’s conversation on drugs and I’m not about to go quiet now! I know in 1950 Kendall won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research related to the discovery of cortisone, but they’ve been handing out those Nobels like candy since 1901. Homer Simpson probably has one. But he doesn’t have a game ball, which Kendall now can now proudly claim in heaven for contributing to the resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman. I’m thinking maybe now the whole team should line up for cortisone shots and see where that gets us.
Goat(s): Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper. In the midst of the offensive breakout, Espinosa and Harper continued their struggles, going a collective 2 for 11 with just one run scored. This comes on the heels of Monday’s collective 0-7 performance. I understand the Nationals don’t have a lot of great options at the top of the order, but unless they generate more on-base productivity from their top two hitters in the lineup, I can’t foresee many more games like last night.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Tyler Moore. All the kid does is hit when he is in the lineup. If he is going to play more (pun!), which it seems like he will (and should), may I humbly suggest that Davey consider moving Moore behind Adam LaRoche and sliding Ian Desmond up to the #2 spot against lefties (keeping Espinosa leading off since he has swung the bat well against southpaws)? And against righties, perhaps Desmond could lead-off while Harper could still hold down the #2 spot?
Current Record: 42-30
I used to think the only good reason to invade Canada would be to ensure a steady supply of the delicious bacon that tops my occasional Egg McMuffin. The last three days have given me another reason: Wins to add to the ledger for the Washington Nationals. Thanks Canucks!
Now, with a glowing heart, let us hand out the awards for the Nats three-game sweep of the Blue Jays.
Game ball(s): Anytime you go on the road (let alone a foreign country) and sweep a team, everyone deserves a pat on the back for a job well done. Ah, that’s so nurturing of you. But smiley stickers for everyone aside, the Nats bullpen does deserve kudos for logging eight innings of one-run ball over the three games. Each time they took over for Washington’s starter, the Nats held the lead. And each time, when the last reliever left the mound, the team still was ahead on the scoreboard.
Goat(s): The border officials who let the Nationals cross. Wait. They’re heroes!
Bryce Harper is still only 19: This may be the recency effect at play, or the simple fact that my heart already swells at the mere mention of Bryce Harper, but boy did Tyler Moore have a heck of a game today. Moore, starting for the first time in the series, went all crazy American, going 3 for 5 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs. He probably strikes out too much to have a great average, but with an impressive record of power in the minor leagues, the two home runs isn’t so crazy.
Current Record: 38-23
I could probably write a bit about the grove Washington’s offense has found in Atlanta and how it led to yesterday’s 8-4 win. Or maybe I could speculate endlessly about Stephen Strasburg’s battle against the sticky Atlanta heat. Or I could just let you watch Bryce Harper’s opposite-field shot off of Atlanta reliever Jonny Venters, whose early career dominance has been highlighted by holding 236 lefties to a cumulative .186 batting average and just three home runs. I like tv:
Game ball(s): National’s hitters. With every starter but Tyler Moore getting a hit and the Nats scoring seven or more runs for consecutive games for the first time this season, the offense is beginning to roll. What was most impressive yesterday were that 8 of the team’s 12 hits went for extra bases which bodes well for more future crooked innings.
Goat(s): Davey Johnson, who predictably took less than 24 hours to announce that Chien-Ming Wang would replace Ross Detwiler in the rotation. Hard to argue with the manager of a 28-18 team, but if you asked my parents, you would know why I’m just going to say that I hope it is the right move.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Tom Gorzelanny, who played long-man hero out of the bullpen yesterday, tossing three innings of scoreless relief. After another short outing by Stephen Strasburg, Gorzelanny nearly got a four-inning save and would have if not for Davey’s quick hook after the first hitter reached base in the bottom of ninth.
Current Record: 28-18