Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday Brunch: Spring Training Week 1

I like to spend Sunday mornings sipping coffee in front of the computer and catching up on all the Natty news I missed during the work week. It's often the only time I have to sit back and take stock of the net effect of the week's events. Each Sunday this season I'll be mailing in winging breaking down the week's events with the usual witless commentary you've come to expect from the Curly W.

Nats Record: 0-2. Inconsistent offense+weak defense=getting shellacked by 5 runs in each of the games.

Runs Scored/Allowed: 9/19. This is starting to remind me of last year's team. The '06 Nats didn't have a problem scoring runs per se, but the pitching and defense would put the opposing team too far ahead to catch up.

Pitching: No wins, two losses, 28 hits, 16 ER, 2 HR, 9 BB, 10 K. I know it's largely useless to evaluate the whole pitching staff's stats at once, but at this point in the spring they are an amorphous blob and shall be regarded as such. The strikeouts to walks ratio is fairly even, which is good, but this team won't win many games giving up 16 ER in 18 innings.

Hitting: Team BA: .275. Not bad, but the team is having trouble stringing together the hits in order to score. I didn't see a lot of hard-hit balls against the Orioles; many of the Nats' hits were weak grounders that bad-hopped past the infielders. The bad news, like last season, is that the team's strikeouts to walk ratio. The Nats struck out 16 times in two games and walked only 4 times for a ratio of 4.00. The Nats had problems with strikeouts last year and so far this year is no different. Only 19 hits and four walks adds up to an anemic OBP of .312.

Fielding: The Nats committed two errors in each of the two games, and D'Angelo Jimenez was responsible for two of them by himself. A look at Jimenez's career stats shows that he's not exceptionally error-prone, so I'll chalk this up to spring rust for now.

Curly W aside: the stats say that Jimenez pitched 1.1 innings for the Padres in 2002. I can only imagine what the dire situation must have been that required Jimenez to pitch. Anyone know?

Baserunning: the Nats haven't stolen any bases yet, but overly aggressive baserunning caused two outs against the Dodgers and Felipe Lopez was picked off first against the Orioles, no doubt while dreaming of his bikini-clad wife's picture in FHM. I think baserunning mishaps need to be pinned on the base coaches as well as the runners. The coaches are supposed to judge whether to hold or send the runners, and they may be shaking off a bit of rust too.

Storyline Update

-John Patterson started the game and had a so-so outing. He gave up a run on three hits in two innings of work. His fastball seemed to have enough zip to it but he had trouble locating his breaking stuff.

-Ryan Zimmerman seems ready to take over as the star of this team. He went 4-5 with a dinger and three RBI over the two games. No worries about a sophomore slump here. I hope the team does the right thing today and signs him to a long-term deal.

-The relief pitching was pretty good. Billy Traber struck out three and gave up no runs in 2.2 innings of work and Ray King, Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner and Saul Rivera all pitched okay. Joel Hanrahan got absolutely shellacked, giving up 5 ER in 0.1 innings. He may have punched his ticket to Columbus.

-GUZMANIA!!! 2007 (thanks to NTP for coining a phrase) is off to a rough start. The Guz played DH yesterday and went 0-2 with a strikeout and was hit by a pitch. Catch the fever!

-MASN seems all grown up. It actually looks and feels like a real network now. The announcers are professional, the production values are much improved, the interviews in the stands with players and management are great, and the sports news and score tickers are fantastic. I enjoyed Bob Carpenter and Bob Sutton. They called a great game considering it was the first broadcast of the season. Tellingly, they were already talking at the end of the game about how it's easier to call games for a winning team than a losing team. Yeah, we know...it's easier to watch winning games too.

-Space Coast Stadium looks fantastic now that it's been re-painted with the Nats' colors. It looks like a pretty fun place to watch a game. I spied a kid eating an ice cream sundae helmet and was envious. You know that an MLB franchise has arrived when it has its own ice cream sundae helmets.

-Up Next: split squad games today vs. the Astros and Dodgers followed by a week of games against the Braves (twice) the Astros (twice), the Orioles and the Mets. MASN will broadcast the games on Thursday and Friday so set those TiVos now.