A Washington Nationals Blog

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Minor League update and Battle of the Basement

Barry Svrugla mentioned in his Nats Journal today, as I did a couple weeks ago, that the minor league teams aren't really living up to the hope and dreams of The Plan. I'm glad that I am not the only one who finds this notable, if not concerning. But more on the generalized state of the Minors after we talk about the true meaning of today's game against the Phillies.
This game, more than any of the others we have played against our divisional friends is one that gives us a chance to really build some team mojo by playing a club that is NOT meeting or exceeding expectations. The Mets, Marlins, Braves, and even the D-Backs were expected to be at least decent this season and have been playing better than, well, at least us. But the Phillies, oohhhhh the Phillies. Thanks to the Curse of Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies have made our bad start look, umm, bad instead of galactically awful. The Phils are 3-9, making our 4-10 look, while, at least slightly better. So this first little mini-series of the season between the Nationals and the Phillies is a chance for the Nats to not only gain a little ground from the cellar of the division, but its also an opportunity, the very first opportunity of the season in fact, for the Nationals to beat up on a team that hasn't is playing poorly, meshing poorly, and has a coach that wants to beat up radio personalities. So what the Nationals need to do is play the same ball that they have for about the last week. Even though the record hasn't always borne it out, the play for the last week or so has been solid. Even in the games that end up in the loss column, the team is losing 6-4, 4-3 instead of 8-2, 137-4. This really means that it is the pitching, especially our much vaunted starters that have toed the rubber and started at least throwing a serviceable outing each night. We still don't have the 6 2/3 to 8 inning starts that we need to be truly competitive and protect our bullpen (by the way, what about Saul Rivera on Monday?!) but 5 to 7 innings with 2-4 runs is at least competitive. So if the Nationals play how they have been and maybe actually score a run in the first inning, then we have a golden opportunity to take a couple of wins (and a short series) from a division rival.

Now, onto the Minor League standings:

Potomac 6-3
Hagerstown 4-8
Harrisburg 2-9
Columbus 3-9

That is a combined 15-29, but more telling is that the upper Minor League teams are 5-18, while the Class A clubs are playing a more respectable 10-11. This, even more clearly than my little mini-analysis last week sometime shows that the talent, what little there is, isn't ready to be in the bigs yet, its stuck in the low minors. That means that you won't be seeing much of it this year, probably not much next year, but you should really be getting ready for 2010 when we should have some pretty good young kids playing ball in DC! But in all seriousness, its should be expected that as the organization develops those numbers should continue to improve up the list so that Columbus is playing 7-5 right now instead of 3-9. But just for the sake of consistency, 15-29 spread out over 162 magical games is 55-107. But if you look only at Class A teams, the young guys, you get 77-85, which is better than last year's team. So keep looking to the future, but enjoy beating on the broken Phillies tonight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New Blog Added

OK, if St. Barry can show that he is goig to at least be around for the summer (which, if his latest post is at all acurate, is a yes) then I'll add him to the list. Congrats Barry and the Nationals Journal, now we only need you to compete with the other team that plays in RFK.......

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back to the Future....

This should, in effect be the theme of this enitre season for the NAAAAtionals. Much of this team, especially the pitching, is either a cheap filler (Hellloooooo Jason Bergman) or a prospect that would be in the International League with any other franchise (awkward silence and stares at Matt Chico and Jerome Williams). But despite this, we have learned a couple of things over the last (almost) two weeks.

First, starting pitching IS important and we have none of it. Since Opening Day, the NAAAAts have stuck out 46 batters AS A STAFF and have also walked 46. The next closest teams are the Metropolitans and the Yankees, both of whom have 9 more Ks than BB. And they both have lass than 40 walks. While this does take into account the bullpen, the point remains the same, AS A STAFF, our pitching can't find the plate. This means walks, this means people on base, say at the start of every single inning you pitch because, hey, what fun would it be if you don't walk the pitcher who is TRYING to get out in order to load the bases with no outs against the Bravos. But I digress, the issue is our pitching and why it needs help.

So, for a little better picture, lets look at where we are as a team, in a number of pitching categories. I looked at the top and bottom 5 for each of the following, and here it is:

TOP 5
Losses
Hits
Runs
Earned Runs
Home Runs
Walks

bottom 5
Wins
ERA
Saves
Save Opportunities
Strikeouts

Now, the saves thing isn't fair to Chad, since we only have one win and it came in the bottom of the 9th, but the point really is that we have a club that seems to be in pitching bizarro world where a walk is good and Wins are something to be scorned like lepers.

But there remains hope in the world because, as we have all been told since we couldn't trade Soriano last July, the Nats were going to be the NAAAATs this season and we should all just shut up, sit there waiting for the new park and be glad that they aren't the NAAts or the NFRONTIERLEAGUEts. So that's right, this all all ok because its part of THE PLAN. Which should mean that even if the big club sucks, the kids in Columbus, Hagerstown and Potomac should be showing signs of possible greatness, right?

So here are the records so far:
Columbus 2-4
Harrisburg 0-6
Potomac 4-1
Hagerstown 2-5

I'm leaving out the Rookie leagues, but the point is, our minor league system is a combined 8-16. This is a record of 54-108 over 162 games, since that is kind of the standard we work with here. Now, I don't think that the Senators are going to actually lose EVERY single game, but when THE PLAN hinges on getting good players and having depth in the minors, Kasten and Bowden have a loooooooooooooooong way to go.

So, after two weeks, yelling at the TV, freezing in the upper deck at RFK and wondering what sort of voodoo hex Christian Guzman put on Zimmerman, this is what we can learn from the last couple of weeks:

NOT A THING

Manny is right, the guys are right, and we should all just bear in mind that the fine and upstanding folks at ESPN, si.com, or where ever else you read national (not Nationals) baseball news really don't pay attention unless you play in New York or Boston or your name rhymes with Roger Clemens (oh wait....). So we should all just understand that this season is probably going to be really painful. But it will still warm up, there will still be good plays, good hits, and even Ramon Ortiz could take a no-no into the 9th once in a season. The failures of the current, already injury-ridden, big league team isn't what we should be worried about. We should be more concerned that the Harrisburg Senators are 0-6 and that the plan, sorry, THE PLAN might not be happening as quickly as we all might hope.