Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Brunch: Spring Training Week 2

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: 3-5 for the week (3-7 overall). Inconsistent offense+weak defense=getting shellacked by 5 runs in each of the games.

Runs Scored/Allowed: 44/55. The bats came alive a bit more this week, particularly during Thursday's 12-5 beatdown of the Astros, but the Nats still have some work to do at the plate. The only way to survive shaky pitching is to score a ton of runs, and this team doesn't seem to have the bats to do that.

Pitching: Basically we've got some guys pitching well and some guys turning in bag-over-the-head performances. The good news is that the guys that we'll really be relying on in April are doing okay, for the most part. Here's the spring line so far for the projected starting rotation according to CBS Sportsline (their guess is as good as any).

John Patterson: 2IP, 1ER, 0BB, 0K, 4.50 ERA
Shawn Hill: 5IP, 5H, 1ER, 4BB, 2K 1.80 ERA
Jerome Williams: 4.1IP, 7H, 5ER, 2BB, 3K 10.38 ERA
Matt Chico: 5.1IP, 7H, 4ER, 1BB, 4K, 6.75 ERA
Tim Redding: 2.2 IP, 8H, 7ER, 4BB, 0K, 23.62 ERA

Obviously Redding's stats stick out like a sore thumb, but he's had less time on the mound to redeem himself. Should he falter, Billy Traber (4.2IP, 6H, 1ER, 0BB, 4K, 1.93 ERA) and Jason Bergmann (5IP, 5H, 0ER, 0BB, 3K) are looking ok so far, too. No Cy Young winners here, but these performances aren't any worse than what we got out of Astacio and Ortiz last year, either.

Hitting: As is always the case with the Nats, they look better at the plate than they do on the mound. Here's how the projected starters are hitting so far:

Felipe Lopez: 3H, 1RBI, 1BB, 7K, .190/.150/.150 (OBP/SLG/AVG)
Ryan Church: 2H, 2RBI, 3BB, 3K, .263/.188/.125
Ryan Zimmerman: 7H, 3RBI, 2BB, 3K, .429/.526.368
Larry Broadway: 4H, 1RBI, 1BB, 4K, .353/.267/.267
Austin Kearns: 5H, 1RBI, 3BB, 4K, .400/.471/.294
Brian Schneider: 6H, 5RBI, 1BB, 2K, .500/.846/.262
Cristian Guzman: 1H, 1RBI, 1BB, 3K, .250/.200/.100
Nook Logan: 4H, 1RBI, 3BB, 5K, .280/.182/.182

Not much surprising here. The guys who we'd expect to hit well (Zimmerman, Schneider, Kearns) are hitting well. The guys who we'd expect to hit like crap (Guzman, Logan) are hitting like crap. Off the bench we've got Josh Wilson (7H, 2RBI, 5BB, 1K, .600/.533/.467) and Chris Snelling (4H, 3RBI, 3BB, 3K, .412/.385/.308) hitting very well.

It will be interesting to see what Manny Acta does if these trends continue come Opening Day. Will he start Cristian Guzman just because he has the big contract, or will he start Josh Wilson, who would appear to give the team the best chance to win. Will he start Snelling over the do-nothing Nook Logan? We know what Frank would do; let's hope Acta is different.

Cristian Guzman should be no more than a bench reserve at this point. Bowden overpaid him and injury and futility make him untradeable. The best thing for Acta to do would be to minimize the damage associated with playing Guzman every day. Bench him through 2008 then give him his unconditional release. It's that simple.

Fielding: D'Angelo Jimenez hasn't made any more errors. Josh Wilson has two. That can't be worse than Guzman would do, could it?

Storyline Update

-John Patterson kicked ass and took names in a minor league split squad game on Thursday. He retired all 12 batters he faced in 4 innings of work. It's always good to know our pitching can dominate someone, even if it's minor leaguers.

-Ryan Zimmerman continues to perform well this Spring, and it's clear that he will be the "star" of the team. As expected, the Nats renewed his contract for 2007 for $400,000. I'm guessing that next offseason will be the year that Zimmerman's big long-term contract goes down, but he's under club control until 2011. Regardless, it's nice to know that the team's "star" won't be a one-year wonder like Soriano.

-GUZMANIA!!! 2007 continues its hearse ride toward oblivion as Guzman continues to be too feeble to play short and too sucky to hit the ball.

-Ryan Church is thus far validating his critics' concerns by having a weak spring at the plate. Church has only two hits in 16 at bats.

-Alex Escobar, on the other hand, is doing pretty well. He has 3 hits in 7 at bats and has only struck out once. Now if he can only stay healthy long enough for Bowden to get fed up with Nook Logan...

-Up Next: The Nats face the Dodgers today (again), the Mets tomorrow, a rare off day on Tuesday and then a game against the Cardinals, split squad games against the Tigers and Dodgers and close the week out against the Indians and the Mets. Opening Day is three weeks from Monday. Awesome.