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.
While the Mets are celebrating their ascension back into relevance with their eight-game winning streak, and the Phillies are floundering without their anchor, Jimmy Rollins, the Nationals are on a high of their own. With the win over the Florida Marlins last night the club earned their third win in a row, finished April above .500 for the first time in five years, and quietly slipped into second place in the National League East.
While the club has had to get by without him for most of the second half of the month, the Nationals welcomed back Ryan Zimmerman to slam the door on what has been an exciting April. no comments
With highly touted prospect Mike Stanton dominating in Class AA Jacksonville, Marlin Maniac takes a look at the recent history of 20-year olds getting the call to the show.
Although the Marlins have said there are no plans of calling up the young outfielder until the end of the year, the success of the Braves Jason Heyward is making people wonder if this is indeed the right decision. As you can see on the spreadsheet, the chances of a 20-year old prospect turning into the next A-Rod or Manny are just as good as him becoming the next Austin Kearns or Benji Gil. The issue I have with bringing up players who aren't even old enough to have a drink is that they need to have a special type of maturity to succeed in the league as well as being able to handle all of the distractions that come off the field. There is no reason for Florida to rush him to the show because their outfield is already set with Chris Coughlan, Cameron Maybin, and Cody Ross. Expect Stanton to be the talk of spring training in 2011.
Braves Blast has seen enough! Listen up Bobby Cox, its time for some lineup changes in Atlanta.
Every month we will update our Federal Reserve Prospects Big Board. These updates will serve as a power ranking system for Nationals prospects, based on overall play and potential. While the season is only 20-25 games in for these players, we did our best to make assessments based on the small sample size (in later months this will be less of a problem).
Major changes in this edition from our initial Big Board include Ian Desmond being removed from the list (he is now officially a rookie), and Josh Smoker falling out of the Top 15.
1. Stephen Strasburg - Strasburg has done nothing to remove him from this spot as he has absolutely dominated Double-A pitching. In four starts he has three wins, a 0.52 ERA, and 23 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. While Washington sent him back to the minors after a stellar spring so he could work on pitching with runners on, he hasn't had a chance as he's allowed only 10 base runners this season. Nevertheless, Strasburg is right on schedule to get his promotion to Syracuse within the next few days, and eventually his call up to Washington in late May.
2. Drew Storen - Storen had nothing left to prove at the Double - A level, which is exactly why he earned his promotion to Syracuse yesterday. In 35 appearances as a professional, Storen has shut down batters with a 1.75 ERA and by averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Triple-A will serve as a new challenge, but it's one he should easily be able to handle. Storen moves up one spot on this list because he has taken the next step to helping the big league club, where Norris has been stalled with injuries.
3. Derek Norris - Norris has only appeared in one game this season with Potomac. Complications with his hamate bone, the same injury Ian Desmond had last year, are causing him to miss valuable time in the minors and could push his eventual major league debut even farther into the future. Norris still has the best bat in the system, but will have to work on his defense and game calling behind the plate when he returns from injury.
4. Aaron Thompson - Thompson also earned a promotion to Syracuse this week after dominating his Double-A opponents. Thompson, who was acquired in the Nick Johnson trade, throws hard for a lefty and brings a strong sinker-changeup combo. In his first start at Triple-A last week he pitched seven innings to earn the win against Phillies prospect Phillipe Aumont. At only 23-years-old, Thompson may very well find himself in a Nationals uniform before this season is over, and may compete to join the likes of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, and Marquis in the 2011 rotation.
5. Danny Espinosa - Espinosa was also injured for the first two weeks of the minor league season, but showed he did not lose a step upon his return hitting .303 with an .844 OPS. Espinosa is solid in both his offensive and defensive play. He also has incredible patience at the plate. Last year he was second in the Carolina league in walks and this year, through 11 games, already has eight. Espinosa struggles to get hits when he is behind in the count and gets thrown out more than one would like on the basepaths. There is also the question of where he will play if he makes it to Washington given the emergence of Ian Desmond at the shortstop position.
6. Michael Burgess- Burgess has traditionally been a three outcome (BB, extra base hit, K) type of guy throughout his career, but he adjusted his swing over the winter in hopes of decreasing his strike outs and making more contact. While he started the season off hot, he has cooled down recently and reverted to his old ways (.266 BA, 16 SO). The power has been missing so far, as he hit his first home run of the season last night, but he is still taking walks (12 this season). He has struggled throughout his career against lefties (.231 BA vs LHP), but is 7 for 21 against them in 2010. His defense profiles well in RF (good range, good arm), but he will have to improve his hitting if he ever wants a shot at the big leagues.
7. Chris Marrero - Marrero is slipping down the back end of this list and it's not because there are other prospects climbing their way up. Still in Double-A, the 21-year-old has seemingly lost grip of his biggest tool, his ability to rake. As a bumbling first basemen/outfielder, Marrero's prospect status lies soley in his ability to mash baseballs; however, through 20 games this season he is only hitting .254/.316/.394 with two homers and 11 RBI. Again, he is only 21, but at this point he is moving in the wrong direction.
8. Destin Hood - Perhaps the sting of missing out on a college football national championship was exactly what Destin Hood needed to kick it in gear. Hood signed with the Nationals, foregoing a football scholarship at the University of Alabama. After struggling in his first season and a half as a pro, Hood is on a tear in his first 21 games batting .368/.385/.483 with a homer and five doubles. If he continues to hit for a high average and improves on his defense, he should see a promotion soon.
9. Bradley Myers - Myers has yet to pitch in 2010 due to some muscle spasms before the season started...he should be back in a week or two.
10. JP Ramirez- The Nationals gave Ramirez big money as a 15th round pick in 2008, but they knew that's what it would take to keep him from going to college (besides they saved a bunch on not signing Aaron Crow!). Some questioned his ability at the major league level because of his smaller stature, but Ramirez was considered one of the best pure hitters in the draft. Ramirez struggled in 2009 but has seemingly found his stroke early on this year. In 20 games he is hitting .284/.356/.862 with three homers and 19 RBI. Only 20-years-old, Ramirez could catapult up this list if he continues to develop down in Hagerstown.
11. Jeff Kobernus- The Nationals second round draft pick was off to a good start in Hagerstown before getting hurt. In 14 games the second baseman was batting .309/.338/.338. Basically, he was hitting a lot of singles and not walking very much. He battled injuries last season as well.
12. Eury Perez - Only 19-years-old, Perez embarked on his fourth professional season with high expectations. Last season in 205 plate appearances the outfielder batted an eye-oppening .381/.443/.503 with 16 stolen bases in rookie ball for the Gulf Coast Nationals. Entering 2010 in Hagerstown, Perez has had trouble finding his bat, hitting only .232/.284/.261, leaving many to wonder if perhaps his outstanding performance in the Gulf Coast League last season was only because he was more advanced than his competition.
13. Adrian Nieto - Nieto, a 5th round pick in 2008, has been splitting the starts at catcher with Sandy Leon so far this year in Hagerstown. After having a disappointing season last year in the GCL, he has gotten off to a hot start hitting .348/.500/.348 for the Suns. The switch hitting Nieto has a very good batting eye, but has yet to display any power. His defense behind the plate is above average and he has a very good arm. Like Ramirez, at age 20, he still has a lot of room for growth.
14. Jack McGeary - After initially splitting time between taking classes at Stanford and training with the Nationals in Florida, McGeary decided to take the plunge in 2009 to play professional baseball full time. McGeary, who was one of the top prep pitchers in the nation when he signed with Washington, struggled in his pro debut. In 26 starts between A-Ball and the New York Penn League the lefty posted a 5.54 ERA with only 89 strikeouts to 86 walks. While he isn't all the way back, the 21-year-old has posted a 4.29 ERA in four starts with Hagerstown this season. He still has the potential, the Nationals just need him to learn how to pitch and throw strikes.
15. Tom Milone - The left-handed Milone does not have overpowering stuff but is a pitcher who has great control and command of the strike zone. For his minor league career, he has a WHIP of 1.19 and BB/9 of 1.96. He already has 20 strikeouts through 4 games this season, after getting only 103 in 25 games last season, though he has also walked 6. He is reminiscent of another Nationals left-hander, John Lannan, in the sense that when he is on point he fools batters and pitches to contact, but when he is off of his game he is very hittable. This is reflected in the fact that he has had two very good outings and he has had two outings where he was knocked around. He profiles as a back of the rotation type.