Archive for the ‘Florida Marlins’ Category
Saturday, April 27th, 2013
On any other day Jordan Zimmermann’s one hit masterpiece of the Cincinnati Reds would have been the top story in baseball. But not yesterday. Instead, Zimmermann’s brilliant mastery of the Redlegs was quickly relegated to a distant second place — like a very pretty, but not beautiful, bridesmaid who stands at the alter waiting for someone to take notice.
Indeed, on a day of pitching brilliance, the Zimmermann outing placed a ho-hum second to Anibal Sanchez’s amazing performance in Detroit’s 10-0 pasting of the Braves. Sanchez’s outing made history, as the righty struck out 17 hitters in a single game, besting the 16 Ks registered by Detroit Hall of Famer Mickey Lolich.
There is little that Sanchez’s performance has in common with Zimmermann’s (Anibal threw Ks, Jordan threw grounders), except for this: Sanchez, like Zimmermann, is not the publicly acknowledged ace of his team’s staff — that would be Justin Verlander.
How good was Sanchez? The former Marlin (he was never better than 13-12 for them), struck out Dan Uggla four times, Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco three times each and struck out two batters in every inning except the fourth. Sanchez limited the Braves to five hits and no Detroit outfielder recorded a putout. And Sanchez didn’t even pitch the 9th.
But Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t the only bridesmaid on Friday night. Out in Oakland, Baltimore southpaw starter Wei-Yin Chen two hit the White Elephants over eight innings to provide the Birds with their best pitching performance of the season. Prior to Chen, no Orioles pitcher had made it into the 8th inning — which should tell you something about the O’s starters.
On what might justifiably be called “the day of the pitcher,” Chen was just so-so, at least in comparison with Sanchez and Zimmermann. But Chen’s victory was a thing of beauty. He threw 12 fastballs in his first thirteen pitches, all of them four seamers and none of them faster than 92 mph. Chen is hittable, but no one seems able to hit him.
Least of all Oakland hitters: “He does a little something different each and every time,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Chen’s outing. “But at the end of the day, he’s got a fastball that gets on you a little quicker than you think. He gets a lot of popups and fly balls.”
Sunday, April 14th, 2013
The Washington Nationals are a good baseball team, and perhaps even a great baseball team. They are 7-4, have swept two separate series (including an interleague series against the White Sox), play well at home (where they are 6-2), and are in second place in the National League East.
But so far in this young season the Nationals have failed to win the big games against their toughest competition. They were outscored by the Redlegs (27-10), and their bullpen has collapsed again and again — most recently on Friday, in a game they should have won against the Braves — and their star third baseman has made a number of unforced errors, calling into question the health of his shoulder.
“We need to do better,” Tyler Clippard said of the pen after Friday’s late inning 6-4 loss. But stating the obvious isn’t likely to quiet the fears that the bullpen is righty heavy — that the Nationals are missing a key left hander who could make a difference. “The Nationals miss Sean Burnett,” Mitch Williams said on MLB Network on Saturday. “They need another lefty out of the pen.”
The one counter-argument is that today, in their 3-1 loss to the Braves, a great bullpen would not have made the difference. Even with Stephen Strasburg on the mound, the Nationals couldn’t get a bead on Braves’ starter Tim Hudson, who gave up just four hits in suffocating a suddenly anemic Nats’ offense.
Is there a lesson in all of this? Today’s game might seem to point the way: Ryan Zimmerman committed another throwing error, reliever Ryan Mattheus gave up an unnecessary insurance run to Atlanta in the top of the 9th — and the Nationals couldn’t score when they needed to.
Glass-half-empty fans will say (and have been saying) that it’s time for the Nationals to start solving their problems: it’s time to begin the long transition of shifting Ryan Zimmerman to first, it’s time to go out and trade for a lefty out of the pen — and it’s time to make some tough but necessary decisions on relievers (like Henry Rodriguez) who aren’t producing.
But glass-half-full fans will look at the season and decide what Davey Johnson has decided: it’s way too early to worry. “We’re gonna be fine,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said in the wake of today’s loss. His team seems to agree. Adam LaRoche dismissed concerns about Zimmerman’s shoulder (“He’s one of the best defenders out there”), and Johnson shrugs when asked about his pen, saying that Friday’s loss was his fault.
Then too, there’s this. Tim Hudson is a savvy and solid pitcher, as he proved today. Stephen Strasburg pitched well, the Zimmerman error was not the difference in the game, Rodriguez looked good — and the best bullpen in the world couldn’t have and wouldn’t have won that game. The Nats didn’t throw away today’s game, the Braves won it. And the difference was Tim Hudson.
“He doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but he knows how to pitch,” Zimmerman said of the Atlanta righty. “You don’t do what he’s done in this game for as long as he has without having a really good idea of what to do out there . . . . he’s one of the best guys out there, and he usually does well against us. Like I said, if you don’t get him early, it’s tough.”
Friday, March 29th, 2013
The “new look” Nats? Well, okay — maybe not quite. The team that the Nationals will put on the field on Monday during their home opener versus the Miamis looks a lot like last year’s team. Except . . . except that speedster Denard Span, late of the Twins, will now be in the lead-off spot, which gives the Nationals the on-base guy they’ve been looking for for a number of years.
Span, it seems, was always the guy that Mike Rizzo wanted; but not a guy that the Twins wanted to part with. Back in 2011, Rizzo nosed around for Span, but the cost was too high: the Twins wanted either Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard. Rizzo said “no.”
But this winter, Rizzo was able to swap up-and-comer Alex Meyer for Span: a heavy price, to be sure, but one Rizzo was willing to pay. Meyer was, and is, a top prospect and, with the Twins rebuilding their starting rotation the trade worked out for both teams. In truth, the trade was absolutely essential for the Nationals — who’ve lacked an on-base guy in the top spot for three years. None of the experiments (Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth — and others) worked out.
But it’s not just Span’s on-base talent that the Nationals acquired. The former 2002 first round pick is a good first-to-third guy and a plus centerfielder. With savvy Jayson Werth in right and Bryce Harper in left, the Nationals outfield is better defensively than it was last year — much better.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed. “If there was a glaring weakness on last year’s team, it was the need for a traditional center fielder and a leadoff hitter,” Chris Cwik over at Rotographs argues. “Denard Span should fill both of those roles. He’s not a power guy, but he has shown the ability to hit for a relatively high average, takes a fair share of walks and steals about 25 bases. He’s also joining a much better lineup, so there’s at least a reason to believe he could turn into a run-scoring machine this year.”
The trade for Span allowed the Nationals to restock their farm system by trading Michael Morse to Seattle (from whence he came), and hang on to both Storen and Clippard. The big secret about Span is that while he’s not a long ball hitter, the alleys in Nationals Park are built for him. He led the A.L. in triples in 2009 (with 10) and hit the same number in 2010.
While Span’s triples production has fallen off over the last two years, he’s healthy now — which means that Nationals Faithful will be able to see the 28-year-old end up on third in the top of the first at least a few times. Then too, Span knows how to take a walk, a now common necessity for winning teams.
Span is nearly a dead-lock cinch to put up OBP somewhere north of .335 — he was at .357 last year. As important, we have to believe, is that Span comes to Washington with the same price tag that he wore in Minnesota. Span will earn $11.25 million this year and in 2014, with a $9 million option for 2015. That’s a lot cheaper than what it would have cost the Nationals for Michael Bourn — which is $47. 5 over the next four years.
By today’s standards, Span is a “deal” — his numbers compare well with Bourn, with a nearly identical OBP. Bourn’s upside is that he steals more bases and covers about the same amount of turf in the field. But who’s complaining? The addition of Span means that the Nats open with a line-up that is as tough as any the National League — and an outfield that might be the best defensively in all of baseball.
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
There are people who throw salt over their shoulder, who won’t walk under a ladder, who dodge sidewalk cracks as they head to their office — and then there are the rest of us: who audibly groan when we see own hometown boys featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s the kiss of death.
Honest To God: the S.I. “Kiss Of Death” syndrome is not just some kind of black cat superstition. Just ask Cubs’ fans. Back in 2004, S.I. featured fireballer Kerry Wood on its cover under the headline “Do You Believe?” In fact, the answer to that question for “long suffering Cubs fans” (note: the words “Cubs fans” must always be preceded by the words — “long suffering”) was an emphatic “no.” They knew better, especially with Dusty “arm killer” Baker in charge. The 2004 Champs were the Boston Red Sox, who swept the series from the stinking Cardinals. The Cubs finished sixteen back.
Which is not to say that this year’s S.I prediction, authored by Tom Verducci (who says our guys look a lot like Davey Johnson’s ’86 Mets), is wrong. The CFG crew (and, as a reminder, here we are), thinks this is the best team the Nationals have ever fielded (well, that was easy) and arguably the best in baseball. But predicting a World Series match-up against the Rays (S.I.’s pick in the well-named Junior Circuit) is a bit of a stretch. The playoffs are now a second season, in which anything can happen — as any old Nationals’ fan can now tell you.
Is the Sports Illustrated jinx real? The first baseball player to appear on an S.I. cover — this was back in 1954 — was Eddie Matthews who, after his appearance, broke his hand. Pete Rose appeared on the cover in the same week, in 1978, that his 44 game hitting streak ended. “Indian Uprising,” back in 1987 featured the powerhouse Cleveland Indians: who finished in last place, with the worst record in baseball. And in May of last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers (then in first place) appeared on the cover with the headline “Fun and Games In L.A.” — and promptly tanked.
So, while the S.I. jinx is simply a superstition, it’s hard to argue with history. Then too, the reason there’s a 162 game season is not simply to test of team’s excellence, but it’s luck. It’s ability to overcome fate, and injuries and those odd little bounces that rob a sure winner of a Series championship. And there’s that other thing: the Nationals might well be “the best team in baseball,” at least on paper, but the coming season won’t be played on paper. It’ll be played against the likes of the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. Among others.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Ah, we’re back — and this time for good. The snow has melted, we can feel Spring in the air, and the Nationals are just days from their opener. It’s the season of predictions: with everyone assessing starting rotations and winter trades.
So too, usually, we make our predictions at this time of the off-season. But this year, we’re going to do something different — we’re going to pick the counterfactuals: those teams expected to do well who, in our estimation, are overrated. Here we go:
Thursday, October 4th, 2012
You can now add to your list of bad baseball trades the one that sent slugger Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis from the then-Florida Marlins to the Detroit Tigers on December 4, 2007.
The Tigers gave up a knapsack of top prospects for the two fish: Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo. Not surprisingly, almost all of the players that the Marlins got in the swap are out of baseball, or playing for someone else.
Remember? The baseball world was all atwitter about how the Tigers had solidified their rotation with the addition of Willis. Cabrera, however, was hardly a throw-in. Even then, he was considered one of the best hitters in baseball. But he’d put on a lot of weight and that had raised eyebrows in Miami.
“A lot of pounds” is an understatement. Cabrera looked like Dumbo. He arrived in Florida in 2003 at a trim 185 and left for Detroit at 255. But the Tigers thought he was worth the bet: he was a four time All Star and had just come off a season where he’d hit 320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBIs.
Saturday, September 8th, 2012
The Miami Marlins took advantage of a poor outing from Stephen Strasburg to notch a three run lead on the Nationals early in their contest on Friday, and went on to beat Washington in ten innings despite a late rally from the Anacostia Nine. The 9-7 loss, coupled with an Atlanta victory in New York, cut Washington’s lead in the N.L. East to 6.5 games.
Washington ace Stephen Strasburg had one of his most difficult nights as a starter, leaving after just three innings. “I didn’t command the fastball,” Strasburg said of his outing. “I kept getting behind in the count. I kept falling behind. I wasn’t able to use other pitches effectively.
Former Pirates starter Zach Duke saw his first outing as a National, relieving Strasburg and throwing four solid innings of three hit baseball. The Nationals eventually tied the game at six in a clutch eighth inning, the result of a Michael Morse home run, his 13th of the year.
But the Marlins fought back with three big runs in the top of the tenth, getting two runs on a Jose Reyes triple. Reyes came home on a Carlos Lee sacrifice fly. Reyes finished 3-6 with three RBIs.
“To be honest, that’s the first time I ever remember managing a baseball game and you win and you don’t know what to say,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said following his team’s victory. “Very confusing. Good battle. They battled back, they never quit, they never gave up.”
Saturday, August 25th, 2012
The dog days seem to be getting to the Washington Nationals, as the team dropped its opening game against the Phillies in Philadelphia, 4-2. The loss was marked not so much by a lack of pitching (or even hitting), as a general team listlessness, a lack of the kind of punch that the D.C. Nine have seen over the last two weeks.
Everything seemed to go wrong for the Nationals: Edwin Jackson had a classic Edwin Jackson game, giving up runs early before settling into a good rhythm, and the offense looked subdued and befuddled, knocking out only six hits against Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick.
The Nationals also suffered two setbacks to their starters. Ian Desmond was scratched from the starting line-up because of a sore knee (as well as a slightly tweaked hamstring), while Michael Morse suffered a bruised right hand on a pitch up and in in the first inning. Both may well be lost for the balance of the series, and Morse might be out longer.
But the box score key in the Nats’ loss came down to the pitching of Philadelphia’s Kyle Kendrick, who tamed the punchless Nats with 6.2 innings of four hit baseball. The six Philadelphia relievers who followed gave up just two hits and kept the Nationals off the board.
“We want to beat these guys,” Kendrick said following the victory. “I’m sure they’re feeling pretty good where they’re at. It would be nice to sweep them, you know? Why not?”
The two Nationals runs came on a Tyler Moore home run in the top of the 7th with Kurt Suzuki on first. Aside from a solid 2-4 night from Bryce Harper, that was the only real offense the team could generate.
“It was definitely a blow for us, but it’s kind of what we’ve been dealing with all year,” Moore said of the injuries to Desmond and Morse. “Guys stepping up in different situations. Just another day. We’re hoping Mikey’s hand is fine and Desi’s fine. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals are thinking ahead to 2013 (it’s never too early), and have rewarded uber bench hitter Chad Tracy with an extension through next year. The popular Tracy has proved invaluable for he Nationals this year, with a .283 BA and three clutch home runs off the pines . . .