Archive for June, 2009

Phish Wrap: Nats Bats Suddenly Silent

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Rob Dibble went on a bit about Ricky Nalasco’s “stuff” last night during the MASN broadcast, as if that could explain the sudden fall-off in Nationals hit and run production. Dib’s was right of course — Nalasco’s “stuff” tamed the Anacostia Boys, allowing the Marlins to squeeze out a 4-2 win — but Nalasco’s stuff wasn’t that good. In fact, Nalasco’s lack of “stuff” got him sent to triple-A  New Orleans at the end of May after he posted a 9.07 ERA in nine starts. Sure, he’s been a lot better since being recalled, but Nalasco is not Tom Seaver and never will be. The Nats bats being what they are, the Anacostia Boys should have found a way to beat him.

Then too, a little too much is being made of how the Nats bullpen collapsed (yet again), when in truth good hitting teams consistently find ways to overcome occasional bullpen woes. The bright spot of the evening was Scott Olsen, who pitched a solid seven innings and seemed more in command on the mound than he had all year. I’m still not sold. The only other bright spot is Josh Willingham, a CFG favorite, who went 2-4 and made a stellar play in right field. “The Hammer” is settling in as one of the team’s most consistent producers. Willingham was rightly irritated at the beginning of the year when he was relegated to a bench role behind Austin Kearns. 

Willingham and Olsen

Down On Half Street: There’s a lot of chatter about the Nats search for a centerfielder. The straight-up swap of Lastings Milledge for Nyjer Morgan was apparently short-circuited when the Ahoys asked for Craig Stammen, but you’ve got to believe that Frank Rizzo is considering other solutions. There are a couple out there if the Nats are willing to part with one of their young pitchers. The Rockies are likely shopping Ryan Spilborghs, the perenially second-tier Rockies outfielder who gets played only when the Rocks get tired of other options. The Red Sox and Tigers were once said to be interested. Spilborghs is one of those guys who gets lost in the shuffle, but who can play . . . The Nats are loathe to trade pitching but the truth is that (suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere) the Nats have young arms to give. True, you “can never have enough pitching,” but you can’t win without an outfield and just now the hole in center looks like a yawning chasm. So pick one: Mock, Balester, Clippard, Stammen or Estrada. The rest are probably untouchable . . . With everyone looking for pitching, you’ve got to believe that contenders are salivating over Garrett Mock, who won the International League’s “Pitcher of the Week” award last week . . .

I keep hearing all the reasons why Shairon Martis was sent down (“he needs to pound the strike zone“), but you have to wonder how he feels sitting in Syracuse while Joel Hanrahan, Jesus Colome and Julian Tavarez eat buttered corn in D.C. (What is it that Tavarez adds that we haven’t seen before?) Pitchers’ egos are fragile things and they, like hitters, sometimes go through slumps. So let him work out his problems in the bigs. What’re we afraid of — that the Nats might lose? Martis was the only starter worth anything in this town for two months. Why does this feel like a soul-killing and ungrateful demotion? . . .  Kudos to Mike Henderson at NationalsPride for unpacking Shairon’s recent woes and to Jeff Bergin for weighing in on Lastings. Bergin lazers in on Rizzo’s attempt to change the Nats culture as one of the reasons Milledge is being shopped . . .

Facing The Phish

Monday, June 29th, 2009

The Marlins may be among the strangest franchises in all of baseball. They are, at once, a perfect reflection of their ownership and their city — tanned and transient, hard to define, they exist somewhere near the edge of the continent in a place where everyone wants to live but no one is actually from. The team’s skill-set is defined by the stingiest of owners, who builds teams for a season and then as quickly dismembers them. The Marlins don’t actually win after years of planning; rather, they cobble together nose-grinding hitters and tall pitchers, then conduct surprising raids on all the rest of baseball. Coming from nowhere, they win the most improbable of championships. They’re very good for a year and then they’re terrible. Really terrible. Yet somehow, and in spite of playing in an orange toilet, the Florida Marlins’ franchise actually works.

You might go an entire life and never hear these two phrases: “beautiful Tajikistan” and “lifelong Marlin.” The exception to this rule is Hanley Ramirez, the Phish’s all-world shortstop. All of Florida is atwitter over putting Ramirez on the All-Star team, which is where he belongs. Ramirez is hitting .333 with 12 home runs, plays a solid (if unspectacular) shortstop and has a reputation as a Nats killer. He’s deadly in the late innings, when he’s liable to put one into the sparsely populated orange framed seats in left field. He’s not yet 30. Phish fans are disappointed in Ramirez this year, apparently because he won’t top the 33 taters he hit in Miami in ’08, and because he’s been thrown out on the bases an uncomfortable one-third of the time: unusual for a player of his speed and ability. But he’s been on fire lately, hitting over .350 in his last twenty games. He’s streaky.

HR Rookie Card

There’s more to the Marlins than Hanley Ramirez (of course) — but while everyone talks about the Phish pitching (Josh Johnson is all the rage right now — and has been for most of the year), the Marlins’ line-up is filled with underrated bashers. If I were to expand my list of the game’s current most underrated players (a list that now consists of Ryan Theriot, Anderson Hernandez and Jason Werth) I would put Dan Uggla somewhere near the top. Uggla looks soft (a .225 BA) but he hits for power and he hits consistently. The Marlins nearly had a run-in with him earlier this year over salary arbitration, and there was even talk of trading him away, but at 29 he’s yet to reach his potential and could easily hit 35-plus home runs this year. With Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross (.267, 13 home runs) in the middle of the line-up, the Phish are formidable.

The strength of the team — at least at the beginning of the year — was the pitching. But Ricky Nalasco, a former Cubs prospect, has been inconsistent and the seemingly invincible Chris Volstad (all 6-8 of him) has proven to be nearly human. Volstad should be dominating, but he’s not and all the oohing and ahhing over him early on has now been forgotten. Andrew Miller and Burke Badenhop are workmanlike, but that’s not going to win you championships.

Okay, it’s true: the Marlins are contending in the NL East. But that’s only because the Chokes are in a free-fall and the Phuzzies can’t seem to land upright. Still, the Phish have won two championships on the cheap and it’s hard to count them out, even now. And that’s maybe the real story — for all of their inconsistency and empty seats, Marlins President Larry Beinfast has (yet again) cobbled together a contender, and all for the remarkably low price of $36.8 million. That’s a bit over half of what the Nats are spending (at $50.3 million) to field a team that trails them by fourteen games. Not bad.

Nyjer for Lastings? … Done! Otherwise . . .

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Forget about it. At 38,000 feet and somewhere south of Greenland (at least according to the “Moving Map”) I started developing a new theory of assessing baseball talent: don’t do anything at all, just wait for the phone to ring. When the voice at the other end says he’s calling from Pittsburgh and he wants to send you Nyjer Morgan in exchange for Lasting Milledge do the deal. “He’s on his way.” But when he adds: “Oh, and throw in Craig Stammen,” hang up. Okay, so it’s not that new a theory, but you can hardly blame me for giving it significance  — the guy in the seat across from me was on his fourth run-through of the insufferably cute “Two and a Half Men,” the stewardess was rushing around topping off the wine (the result of a one hour delay in leaving the land of Mary Poppins), and the we-just-cleaned-it smell of the 777 was giving way to the we-had-blood-pie-for-lunch aroma.

The Ahoys have had their share of troubles over the last two decades, starting successive rebuilding programs that have gone precisely nowhere. They were last in the playoffs in ’92, in the World Series in ’79 — back during the Willie Stargell era. If that seems like a long time ago, it’s because it was. I was with my wife (here she is, if you’ve forgotten) watching the series from the hospital wing for new mothers and we both cheered with wild abandon when the Alleghanies took the series from the Birds in seven. Since then, the Pirates have looked like they belong in another league. Until now, that is. Earlier this year, the otherwise soporific Sporting News provided a thumbnail sketch of Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, reporting that he loves his family (oh yeah? well so did Charlie Manson) and spends his spare time reading the Bible (me too!).

Manager John Russell and GM Neal Huntington

The truth about Huntington (above, with Pittsburgh Manager John Russell) is that he hasn’t found pitching in the Book of Isaiah, but in the draft — and on the roster of other teams. Let’s take a look: the Pittsburgh front line of Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, Russ Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens is among the best young rotations in baseball. Duke (who, I must say, looked awful last year) has started to shine. He’s homegrown, as is Paul Maholm and Ian Snell. Maholm seems to have found his groove. These guys are young and good. But as good as those three might be, the other two, Karstens and Ohlendorf, are potential diamonds. Both (along with Andrew McCutchen) were acquired in July 2008 from the Yankees for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. In hindsight, that looks like the Great Train Robbery. Karstens has been a hard-luck pitcher, going through stints on the DL and struggling with his control, but he’s been (occasionally) lights-out in the bigs. He has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation guy, even if the Pittsburghers seem to have lost faith in him lately.

Ross Ohlendorf, on the other hand, is the real deal: a Showboat product, he’s big, physical (6-4, 235), fearless and has a high-end fastball. His best game this year was a loss to the Pale Hose in Chicago where, unsupported by his team’s bats, he kept the Ahoys in the game almost until the very end. The White Sox hit him, but indifferently and their best hitters seemed baffled by his two-seamer. On an otherwise no-account team that is still somehow in it, Ohlendorf may be the guy that helps put the Alleghanies over the top. But here’s my point: while Neal Huntington knows that having Duke, Maholm, Snell, Ohlendorf and Karstens is good, there’s no such thing as “enough” — and Craig Stammen would fit nicely in that rotation. That’s why Neal made the call.

So here’s my bottom line, and it works both ways and for both teams. The Nats don’t want Nyjer Morgan as much as they would love to unload Lastings Milledge (Nyjer is good, but he’s more of an Adolfo Phillips than, say, a Rick Ankiel) and the Pirates don’t really want Lastings Milledge. Not really. The guy they really want is Craig Stammen. Which, to my mind, is a pretty good reason for not giving him up. Tell ya what Neal, we’ll give you “Kentucky” instead. Or better yet, if you’re so intent on pitching, we’ll give you Kentucky and we’ll throw in Scott Olsen. And we’ll pull Craig back out of the bullpen and put him back in the starting five. Which is where he belongs.

Blowouts In Perspective

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The most recent Nats effort featured a forgettable “Birdland” blowout. In fact, there’s not much to add to that. Except of course to say that these things happen, and they have happened all too often to the Baltimore Bads. Just last year, as I recall, the O’s went into Arlington, Texas (of all places) and lost 30-3. Texas scored the most runs of any team in the majors in 110 years. For nearly a week following, the baseball press was filled with reports of what the O’s could or would do (and, really, what could they do) and everyone was atwitter with talk of how Baltimore had fallen in the years since dominating the summer game.

I recently came across the Rangers-O’s tilt on ESPN’s list of “100 Greatest Beatdowns” in sports history. The Rangers-Os game came in at number eight, vaulting over such well-known nolo-contenderes as the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston bout in which Ali is famously standing over the dazed “champ.” The Ali-Liston Tsumani was not nearly as good as the one given the B-Birds by the Rangers, which (to my mind) stands unmatched in baseball history. I do not mean to pick on the Os: they were a lousy team last year and are remade this.

While the O’s cannot and will not catch the Yankees or Sox, they have the best young centerfielder in the game (better than Ellsbury, for sure) one of the best young developing catchers in the game, and a well-stocked farm system. They are filled with young (albeit, untried) arms. They are two years ahead of the Nats. In Birdland, the Nats’ problems were on full display: the starting pitching could have been better, the middle relief was deplorable, and the team lacked the kind of timely hitting that marks a winner. Ross Detwiler is now 0-4.

cq5n8Cwx

I would only add this as a kind of not-so-sly comment on the Rangers-Orioles tilt of 2008: the starter and loser was Danny Cabrera. Perhaps it was at that point that Jimmy decided that he needed to make him a Nat.

From Our Mailbag: A reader writes to ask whether we here at CFG will decide to blog about Michael Jackson. Seriously. At first, our board of trustees, dismissed the idea as too bizarre, but then reconsidered their position, and came back with this resounding and surprising position — “No” . . . As CFG’s international reporter and Nats scout in Turkey I wanted to take more time away from the game to see whether I could find any good shortstops in Cappadocia, but have been recalled, just in time to see our beloved Anacostia Boys finish off the O’s of “Birdland” in what remains of this series . . .

Little Z Vs. A Legend

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

By all accounts, tonight’s Nats-Red Sox match-up shouldn’t be much of a match-up, as it pits a young and relatively untried starter, Jordan Zimmermann against a tried-and-true veteran and baseball legend — John Smoltz. But beating a Hall of Fame bound ace shouldn’t be that intimidating. The first game I ever attended came in September of 1963 in Milwaukee, and featured a kick-around (though my memory may fail me) San Francisco starter named Jack Sanford against lefty legend Warren Spahn. Sanford had done servicable time for the Phuzzies before heading west, and big things were expected of him. But within a year the ooomph went out of his arm and he was soon enough out of baseball.

spahn1

I still remember it vividly: it was “Warren Spahn Night” and everyone in smoke-filled Milwaukee County Stadium was simply praying that “Spahnie” would make it into the fifth. The legendary lefthander was on the last legs of a career that saw him come up with the Braves in Boston, move with them to Milwaukee, and then lead them to a World Series. Remember: Spahn had left baseball for a time to serve in World War Two, where he fought the Germans and won at Purple Heart at the Remagan Bridge. He was an amazing guy.

Okay, so the parallels are not exact. While both Smoltz and Spahn spent their careers with the chops, Smoltz is a righty and is attempting to revive a career hampered by injuries. He never served in a war, and no one tonight will be holding their breath to see if he gets into the fifth. Then too, Jordan Zimmermann is no Jack Sanford — he actually has a shot at being much better. But you can bet the brain trust of the Nation will be watching closely, to see if there is anything left in Johnny’s gun.

For the record: in that September so long ago, Spahn was relieved after two outs in the fifth, and with the lead. He had pitched his heart out, but everyone knew. He was done. The fans in Milwaukee stood for ten minutes after he left the field. He came out of the dugout one last time and tipped his hat to the crowd.

41,517

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Yup, the Nats got drubbed by the Sox last nıght. It was a game until the 8th, when the home town team’s bullpen was let loose. Then it got ugly. Then ıt got ugly quick. Once Mr. Lannan left the hill early in the 7th, after providing a very tidy 3-run outing, the bullpen crew gave up eight runs on as many hits in the next 2 2/3 innings. Nuff said.

John Lannan held the Sox-- and Nats fans shouted down The Natıon

John Lannan held the Sox-- and Nats fans shouted down The Natıon

What needs to be said is what was going on in the record setting crowd of 41, 517. Unless you were in the ball park you wouldn’t know. And unless you had watched  Boston fans absolutely dominate Camden Yards over the last several years when the Sox visited Baltimore, it probably wasn’t noticeable.  What it was is a complete unwillingness on the part of Nats fans to surrender their ballpark.  It was a demonstration of protecting their turf.  Protecting their team.  And ( dare I say it!), pride in the home squad.

Record be damned.

Anyone who has ever witnessed Camden Yards when Red Sox Nation invades can tell you — for Baltimore fans its not pretty and it’s not fun.  It is a sea of Red Sox shirts, blue caps and boisterous fans descending out of the local hotels and making their way to the ball park.  The crowd may have had their few “be-ahs” prior to the game, but they are not out of control — or even rowdy. They are more confident; cocky perhaps.  And then, even before the first Boston batter in the first inning leaves the on-deck circle to approach the batter’s box, “the chant” begins:

Here we go Red Sox, Here we go [clap, clap].

Over and over.  By 30,000 full-throated people.  I’ve literally seen O’s fans roll their eyes in disgust and frustration when it begins because they know they’re in for a long night.

But that was not the case last nıght.  The Sox fans were in attendance to be sure. And their team regalia was in full display. But they did not control the space outside the white lines.  Though they tried. In the 7th with the game tied the Sox fans began their chant to exhort their heroes to go in for the kill.  Here we go. . .

But, surprisingly, the vocal coup was repelled.  Nats fans rose to the occasion and booed, yelled and whistled until the park became a cacophony. It was unclear what, exactly, was being yelled but that is the point: it most certainly was not recognizable as a pro-Red Sox incantation.

Which I take to mean that something has happened in this city in the last week.  The Nats won four in a row against two good teams and that has put some life in the step of the team and the fans.  The fans tonight demonstrated that they don’t like losing and won’t be pushed around in their own yard.  By anyone. Not even by The Nation.

I’m not sure how long it will last.  It may be fleeting.  But for at least the next week, maybe longer, this is a baseball town.

Assessing Alberto

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

While Ryan Zimmerman continues to struggle (he’s now at .293, and hitting like he’s Garrett Atkins), there are other Nats who continue to show surprising consistency. One of the happiest surprises is Alberto Gonzalez, sent down earlier in the season ostensibly to work on his stroke, but clearly because he was having trouble fielding routine ground balls. One of the problems (at least in my humble opinion) was that Gonzalez played a deep shortstop, and I kept yelling at Riggleman to pull him in. They never did it. Instead, the pulled him to Syracuse.

Yesterday, in the last game against the Blue Birds, Manny had him at second. There’s two ways to look at that, one positive, the other not so: Alberto is versatile — or he can’t play short. Or perhaps both. Still, there’s no question that he struggles in the majors in the infield, and you can’t win championships without defense. If Nats fans know anything, they know that.

AG pic

It’s good to know where Alberto came from. He was scouted out of the Arizona system, which must have the best scouting department in baseball. They stockpile draft picks, giving up on high-end pricey pitchers for young but talented ”billy ball” position wizards. Gonzalez was one of these. If you check out the Showboat line-up now (Reynolds, Clark, Upton), you can see how they build a team — if there is one knock against their system it is that they’re light on drafting defensive-minded skill players; mostly, their defense has been deplorable. Still, after a rocky start, the D-Backs have been hitting the ball on the screws. This fits Gonzalez perfectly: he’s a good contact hitter, a so-so-defender, but an everyday player. 

Despite their robust farm system and savvy scouting Arizona is not known for making cerebral trades. They packaged Gonzalez with a set of young players for Randy Jackson back in 2007 — maybe it was a move to get Randy back and fans in the seats. The trade included a snappy young pitcher by the name of Ross Ohlendorf, whom a lot of teams would love to have on their staff. The Nats got him from the Empire for pitcher Johnny Nunez: a steal. If his most recent hitting is an indication, AG is here to stay. But he needs to take a few groundballs.

Feather Dusters

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

I have always doubted the usefulness of DH’s, domed stadiums, teams in Canada, and Blue Jays — and so was overly pleased, perhaps, to see our spendid Anacostia Boys take two (two!) extra inning extravaganzas from those ill-clad junior circuit lads from north of the border. It was a wonderful win, not simply because I can’t stand the Blue Jays (I hardly follow them — and doubt you do), but also because the bullpen showed up in both and the Nationals got the timely hitting they deserve. Jesus Colome, closer. Adam Dunn, slap hitter in the first extra frame win and Julian Tavarez and Willie Harris the heroes in the second extra innings win.

Nationals Detwiler Baseball

Four in a row makes a streak, and I am certain now we will hear talk of how this shows ”character” and how the team does not give up — but it shows no such thing. A baseball season consists of streaks: most teams (in my humble opinion) play just around .500 for most of the season, but then go on runs, either up or down, that determine the worth of their season. No one knows this better than the Colorado Rockies, whose trip to the post-season is often determined on such streaks. That will not be the case with the Nats this year. Rather, the Nats current streak should be aimed at keeping them from matching the dreadful seasons of both the recent trips to oblivion of both the Detroit Tigers 103 loss season and the first year Chokes — who won the world-class prize for baseball frustration.

There are exceptions to this ”rule of .500” each and every year. This year it’s the Trolleys in the NL and ”The Nation” in the AL. Everyone else is hovering and hovering. Take a close look at the NL Central. There’s no earthly reason why the Cubs can’t take the division, though only two games over .500. The same is not true out west, where the McCoveys would have to play with wild abandon to catch the Dodgers, who seem capable of Olympian feats. The ”Mile Highs,” who are 9-1 over their last ten are still more than nine out.

And now for our Anacostia Boys. These are great wins, but we have to be a tad concerned, of course, that Zim seems to have hit a little bit of a skid, 0-fer last night and under .300 now. He’ll get his stroke back (if we have faith), but it would be nice to see it soon. And while it is more than interesting to see the bullpen step-up, Joel Hanrahan’s fastball is still flatlining. The starting pitching is starting to kick-in now and if you squint your eyes just so, you can begin to see the outlines of what-is-to-be. We have back-to-back ”quality starts” — in Jordan Zimmermann’s and Ross Detwiler’s most recent outings. Detwiler was particularly impressive.

Down On Half Street. I am on an international tour scouting for the Nats (okay, not really) and here’s what I’ve found so far — a lousy poster and some crumbled statues. Pretty impressive though, I must say . . .  I have been thinking over and over about a sports call-in program that I heard prior to leaving D.C., in which a sometime fan complained that Nats prices were too high. The caller said the ballclub tickets were priced for millionaires (that’s a crock), the hotdogs were priced beyond his range, and he couldn’t get parking for less than $40 per game. Nonsense. If you head out to ”The Bullpen” (as I did just prior to a game two weeks ago), you can get a dog for $3 and a beer for $5. I stopped in and looked around and everyone was under 30, or nearly so. This after I had parked for $25. Nats fans have to get it in perspective — trying parking at Wrigley. Or Fenway . . . Oddly, and you can bet this is the last time this will happen, the Cubs and Nats seem to be playing in tandem. Both are wracking up extra inning wins against junior circuit teams . . . a fan writes: ”you’re going viral” and I though, oh no, but then was told that was good. Phew . . . check our sister blog for the Chokes. You have to feel for these guys (well, maybe not) . . . we will pass them in the standings, but maybe not this year . . .

Blows Against The Empire . . .

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Was the name of a 1960s rock and roll album, but it has now been eclipsed by perhaps the best game played by the Nats this year, and that too against the Yankees. But wait, the near-perfect game was near-perfect in nearly every way: there was a rain delay (which is pure Nats), both the starting pitching and bullpen showed up on the same day, and instead of going long the Nats relied on timely hitting to plate runs when they needed them. For one game, at least, the Anacostia Boy looked like — well, they looked like the Yankees. The final, a 3-0 waxing, vindicated the faith that Manny has shown in Craig Stammen, who gave up six hits, but spaced them out enough to 6 1/3 and pitch a shutout. Then the miracle: four relievers, one hit, three holds and a save. The game ball goes to Stammen.

129699_pirates_nationals_baseball

You all — my fan favorites — should note that I received via special wire, updates on the game nearly hourly while traveling the globe. So here is what me droog, Tom, wrote of the game. ”It is a nearly perfect description: Check the internet for tonight’s box score from the Bronx. It is a beautiful thing. My god they looked really good tonight. Like a freaking team tht knows how to play. Five diving defensive plays and a shutout. Best of all, they didn’t look star struck as they were sticking it to the Yanks. They looked like ball players look when they’re good and they know they’re good Game faces all around and simple high fives and nods at the end of the game. Nothing over the top. They may have just saved Manny’s job.”

Is Anderson Hernandez Underrated?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Somewhere not too long ago in the blogosphere there was a list of baseball’s most underrated players. I’ll be damned if I can remember where it was, but I do know that the list included Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot. It was a good pick. “The Riot” as he is known to sluggie fans was perhaps the surprise player of 2008, a steady former LSU infielder who teamed with Mike Fontenot in college to bring LSU the College World Series championship in 2000. The problem is that Cubs fans were always on Theriot — he never had enough power, he never had enough range, he never had a break-out year, he never looked like a real shortstop. In a league with the likes of Jose Reyes (who looked like Jose Reyes then) and Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Theriot looked just average.

Now, he looks great: Theriot plays every day, he has put some pop in his bat, he never gets injured, and he seems to get to balls more than Reyes — who can’t seem to reach them from the DL. In a lot of ways, Anderson Hernandez looks a lot like Theriot. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of flash, except that he plays everyday, he’s hitting for fairly good average and, just last night he hit his first home run of the year. That’s one home run: the sum total of what Theriot hit all of last year. So I would start thinking about adding Anderson Hernandez to the list of the league’s most underrated players. Here’s are the things about Hernandez (the things the numbers tell us) that yet separate him from the very good hitters — guys like Theriot: he strikes out more than he walks, he needs to hit more gappers (his extra base hit numbers are embarrassingly anemic) and he needs to use his on-base speed better. But, you know, he knows all that. And he’s young.

Anderson Hernandez

 

The other underrated player who I always watch and wish the Nats would somehow get (but never will, because the Phuzzies would never, ever give him up) is Jason Werth. The guy’s a machine. Well, he’s not the machine, but he’s damned good. So that makes two on my ultimate list of baseball’s underrated, or maybe I would add the two that I talked about last night: Ryan Theriot, Jason Werth, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, and maybe Anderson Hernandez. Maybe.