Burgess has always drawn some controversy among Nationals observers. Some believe that the outfielder was a good potential pick that could be a power hitter for a big league team one day, while others think the 2007 sandwich pick was wasted on a prep player that will never be anything more than a platoon player that strikes out too much to have a meaningful career. He certainly provided some hope to his supporters a few years ago when he won the South Atlantic League's home run derby and led the league in home runs and RBIs for a period of time.On the other hand, he has fueled the flames of the detractors as he struggled to hit and struck out at an absurd rate last year with the P-Nats. Rumors have swirled that Burgess has changed up his long looping swing in order to hit for a better average and cut down on the strikeouts and so far it seems to be working for him. This season, his walk to strikeout ratio is 15:17, while for the season last year he had a ratio of 54 BB:135 SO. His current line .292/.406/.416 is drastically improved from 2009's line of .235/.325/.410. While he has been hitting for average, the power has not been quite as prevalent as previous seasons. Incidentally, his first home run of the season came this past week, a blast to the small porch of Pfitzner Field. In his last four games, Burgess is 7-14 with 4 doubles, 6 RBIs, 3 walks, and only 2 strikeouts! What may be even more ridiculous is Burgess' platoon splits. Burgess has mostly struggled against LHP for his career and his line against such pitchers is .238/.320/.368 (vs RHP - .262/.359/.496).
To follow with the recent trend of NL East teams calling up their highly touted prospects, The Good Phight checks in on Domonic Brown, the lone man remaining from the "Big 3" the Phillie farm system had last year.
Last year, Brown, Michael Taylor, and Kyle Drabek were simply known as the "Big 3", but following the blockbuster trade that sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, Taylor found himself in Oakland and Drabek in Toronto. Now Brown is far and away the Phillies best prospect and is tearing up Double AA Reading. Brown is the real deal and could be next in line for an outfield position in the near future. To acquire Halladay, Phillie GM Ruben Amaro knew he would have to break up his Big 3, but the question became who was he going to keep? The decision to keep Brown over Taylor and Drabek looks good so far with Brown putting up impressive numbers and both Taylor and Drabek struggling in their new organizations. With Roy Halladay having another Cy Young season, Philadelphia is the clear winner in this deal, but as they say, you can't judge a trade until all of the players have had a chance to prove themselves.
It was a brutal April for Gary Matthews Jr., and unfortunately for him, there may be too much to overcome to get out of Jerry Manuel's doghouse.
Acquiring Matthews was a bargain from the beginning. He was fighting for a spot on the roster the minute he entered spring training and if it weren't for the late injury to Daniel Murphy, who knows where Matthews would be at now. As MetsBlog points out, Matthews is the type of
NATS' HISTORIC APRIL
With no game Monday evening, the Washington Nationals (13-12) can look ahead to their upcoming series with the Atlanta Braves (11-14). While just one game above .500 now, the Nationals went 13-10 in April, posting a winning record in the month for the first time since the franchise moved to Washington. With star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman returning after missing 8 games so far, optimism abounds at Nationals' Park.
EAST UP, A-TOWN DOWN
The Braves, on the other hand, are off to a rough start and currently are in sole possession of last place in the ultra-competitive NL East. Prior to sweeping their most recent series with the Houston Astros, the Braves had lost nine consecutive games, including sweeps by the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves certainly hope that this three-game sweep of the Astros will help right the ship in Atlanta.
Based on preseason predictions, this team has been a disappointment to date. Chosen by many to finish second in the division and by others to win the NL Wild Card, the Braves are last in the division and 3.5 games back of the San Francisco Giants in the wild card race. The pitching staff - featuring marquee names like Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, and Billy Wagner - has been good but not great with a team ERA of 3.97. The real struggle has been with the bats. The Braves' offense has been, well, offensive. The team is 24th in the majors with a .238 batting average, 28th in slugging percentage, and 25th in both home runs and runs scored. While second baseman Martin Prado has been very good (.354/.414/.475) and right fielder Jason Heyward has played well, the rest of the club has sputtered. Offensive stalwarts such as catcher Brian McCann, first baseman Troy Glaus, shortstop Yunel Escobar, and third baseman Chipper Jones have struggled mightily, hitting .242, .238, .215, and .206, respectively, with six home runs between them. Nowhere has the Braves' offensive ineptitude been more pronounced than at the leadoff spot, where Atlanta ranks last in the league with a .195 average. The leadoff spot has primarily been manned by Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz, and the aforementioned Escobar, none of whom is hitting than Escobar's .215. If the Braves expect to turn their season around, the offense will need to find its rhythm.
Jason Heyward: 5-10, 2 HRs, 4 runs, 6 RBIs
Melky Cabrera: 3-6, 2 BBs, 3 RBIs
Omar Infante: 6-12, 2 BBs, 3 runs
Braves' Pitching Staff: 4 ERs in 27 innings
Chipper Jones 0-10 2 Ks
Tuesday, May 4: Kenshin Kawakami (0-4, 5.48) vs. Livan Hernandez (3-1, 0.87)
Wednesday, May 5: Tommy Hanson (2-2, 2.17) vs. Luis Atilano (2-0, 2.25)
Thursday, May 6: Tim Hudson (2-1, 2.87) vs. Scott Olsen (2-1, 4.35)
BRAVE NEW WORLD
Jason Heyward appears to be coming down to Earth. After lighting the baseball world abuzz with a home run on the first swing of his Major League career, Heyward's astronomical pace has slowed. While he is still performing at an extremely high level for a 20 year-old rookie, it seems as if pitchers are beginning to adjust to the Braves' star. Heyward has struck out 26 times in just 81 at bats, so it will be important for him to increase his contact rate. Despite these early hiccups, scouts have constantly raved about his plate discipline, and, in addition, he struck out less than half as frequently in the minor leagues (1 per 6.34 at bats) so it can only be expected that his performance will improve. That said, Heyward is still batting .272/.388/.580 with seven home runs through his first 25 games as a major leaguer, no small potatoes for any player, let alone a 20 year-old. Braves fans can only hope he continues to "struggle" as he is.
The Nationals had gotten off to such a great start against the Marlins with their convincing 7-1 win on Friday evening, but seemed to have taken a huge step backward with a stinker the following night against Chris Volstad. The team seemed poised for a rebound in Sunday's matchup against the fish, given the teams propensity to avenge losses this season and John Lannan's reliable track record in such instances during seasons past.
Against Josh Johnson, one of the best pitchers in the National League, neither of these two things seemed to matter. The offense scored three runs or less for the seventh time in the last eight games and Lannan failed to last more than five innings for the third time this season as the Nationals lost 3-9 to Florida in the rubber game of the series.
As we will do each monday throughout the season, we will today take a look at Accuscore's playoff forecaster to see how the previous weeks games influenced the divisions playoff race. Despite the Nationals breaking even with a 3-3 record on the week, after first taking two of three from Chicago and then dropping two of three to Florida, Washington's playoff chances dropped 3.4% from 13.9%-10.5%. The computer also shrunk the Nationals predicted chances of winning the division from 9.3% to 6.3%.
Around the division, Accuscore interestingly did not like the Mets very much despite them going 4-2 on the week. Stephen Oh explains:
"The team that AccuScore's computers continue to disrespect are the New York Mets. They had a 4-2 week, but like last week their record vs winning teams and on the road continues to be sub-par. Until the Mets start winning a series or two vs a team like Philadelphia, St. Louis or even Florida on the road, they will continue to be stuck at the under 10 percent in playoff percentage club. The Mets did see a +5 percent improvement (4th best in the NL) and this represented a 2.5X increase in playoff percentage from last week."
The Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg endured what was arguably his worst start as a professional today. In a game that was postponed by rain, Strasburg struggled with command issues in front of a hometown Harrisburg crowd. In total, the right hander allowed a season high six hits, three earned runs, and three walks over 4 2/3 innings against the Altoona Curve.
While the final line does not look good for Strasburg, Dave Shenin of the Washington Post says his actual pitching was not as bad as the numbers indicate:
"All told, Strasburg needed a season-high 30 pitches to make it through the inning, and only 15 of them were strikes. Strasburg was visibly frustrated with the strike zone of home-plate ump Jon Byrne (and pitching coach Randy Tomlin had some words for Byrne as he left the mound following a mid-inning visit to Strasburg). None of the three singles off Strasburg were well-hit -- one was an infield single, one a bloop into shallow center and the last a one-hopper over the head of first baseman Chris Marrero. A throwing error on second baseman Michael Martinez contributed to the carnage, and Strasburg was charged with three earned runs, and one unearned, in the inning."
As Bill Ladson reported earlier this week, todays start will likely be Strasburg's last for Class AA Harrisburg, and he is likely to make his next start for Triple-A Syracuse. If this was his last start for the Senators, he will have pitched 22 innings, allowed 13 hits while striking out 27 and walking only six.
Each month The Nats Blog will announce our Nationals Player of the Month as voted upon by our writers. This award will be determined on quality of performance as well as the impact of that performance.
The month of April was an exciting one for Washington. It saw them have their best start of a season as a franchise since moving to D.C and saw them finish a month above .500 for the first time since 2007. With this great starts saw several outstanding individual performances. Ivan Rodriguez batted over .400 for the month, playing excellent defense. Ryan Zimmerman supplied some timely hitting and some good power despite injuries, and Tyler Clippard posted an April ERA of 0.50 and notched 23 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched.
But of all the great starts for the Nationals the one that stuck out the most was that of Livan Hernandez. After not signing until late into spring training, Hernandez has supplied four excellent starts for the Nationals going 3-1 with a 0.87 ERA. Hernandez pitched at least seven innings in each of his starts, recording one shutout and allowing only three earned runs in 31 innings pitched. no comments
The Washington Nationals attempt at four-straight wins, and a tie for first place in the division, was stymied by Chris Volstad and the Florida Marlins lineup. Combining for only five base runners on the night, the Nationals had no chance to match the seven runs the Marlins put up on the board, and fell to 13-11 in a 7-1 Saturday night.
Apart from Volstad imposing his 6' 8" self on the Nationals lineup, Washington fans found themself dissapointed as the Nationals club seemed to take a step backward on the night, allowing six earned runs and commiting two errors.
Volstad, 24, dominated the Nats line up through nine innings. The Marlins first round draft pick in 2005 struck out eight Nationals batters while only allowing one walk and four hits. His bread-and-butter pitch was his low-90s sinker which he through 55 times on the night for 55 strikes. He kept hitters off balance with his mid-80s changeup which he threw 27 times on the night for 14 strikes.
Throwing only 114 pitches on the night, Volstad did a good job painting the corners earning called strikes through all nine innings. It wasn't his ability to get the Nationals batters to swing and miss that made him so succesful on the night, but his ability to force them into weak contact. On the year Volstad has allowed an extremly low .237 Batting Average On Balls In Play, due to his strong sinker. This showed Saturday as he allowed only one line-drive on the night according to FanGraphs, forcing 11 ground balls and 10 fly balls.