Archive for the ‘predictions’ Category
Saturday, May 4th, 2013
These are not your daddy’s Pittsburgh Pirates, these are the “real deal” Pirates, a team that has not won in nearly two decades but that sits now, at 17-12, just one game from the top in the National League Central. On Friday night they proved they belong there, as A.J. Burnett struck out nine Nationals in leading the Buccos in a 3-1 win over the home-towners.
Burnett gave up just five hits and one walk in subduing the Nationals, getting help from Jordy Mercer, who homered to break the tie and give Pittsburgh the win. The Nationals seemed particularly ineffective against Pirates’ pitching: they were 1-3 with runners in scoring position and struck out 14 times in all.
“Our offense seems to be sputtering. We just can’t get anything going. That’s our problem,” Nats’ skipper Davy Johnson said in the clubhouse after the loss. “We are not hitting balls early in the count. We have a lot better hitters than we are showing.”
The Nationals had every chance of winning, particularly with lefty Ross Detwiler on the mound. But Detwiler lasted only five innings, lifted by Johnson after giving up six hits and two walks. Detwiler was victimized by Nats’ killer Andrew McCutchen, who put a Detwiler offering into the left field seats with two out in the first inning.
“He is not going to hit a home run every time, but it seems like against us, he does,” Detwiler said of McCutchen’s Friday night performance. “You have to focus on keeping the ball down. Don’t let him lift the ball, though.”
Indeed, the Pirates’ centerfielder clearly has the Nats’ number: in twenty-four games against the Nats, McCutchen is hitting .456 with six doubles, two triples, 11 homers, 22 RBIs and 24 runs scored. McCutchen was 3-4 last night, lifting his season BA to .257.
The Nats loss in Pittsburgh put the team back at 15-15 for the year. One year ago, the team was 18-12. The frustration is starting to show, even with Davey Johnson, who called on his team to be more aggressive. “We are kind of hitting rock bottom. We just need to man up,” he said. “Let’s start doing the things we are capable of doing. The ones that get me are the [called strikeouts].
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Of course, the Pirates didn’t “steal” last night’s game (as our headline notes), but used the long ball and a rookie to seal the win. Our headline is, rather, a nod to the Bucco’s long history. They got their name for “pirating” Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics back in 1890 . . .
Since their founding in 1882 (as the Alleghenys), the Pirates have won only five world championships, the most recent in 1979, when the Willie Stargell led “family” subdued Baltimore’s Orioles. But the Pirates haven’t done anything since 1992, when they lost the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves . . .
Sunday, April 28th, 2013
How ’bout them O’s? The Orioles powered past the Oakland A’s 7-3 yesterday off of home runs from Nick Markakis, Adam Jones (which were back-to-back) and Nate McLouth. This was the Birds’ eighth victory in their last ten games, and assured them of a series win over the reeling White Elephants.
The Orioles are 15-9 on the season and are currently in second place in the tough A.L. East. There are all kinds of reasons for the O’s early season success, but none of them has to do with good starting pitching. While Chris Tillman gave them a solid outing yesterday (six innings, seven strikeouts), it’s the O’s bats that have made the difference.
The Orioles are third in runs scored in the A.L., third in home runs, fifth in team average and fourth in hits. In the opinion of CFG’s crack research team (here we are, in case you’ve forgotten), the O’s two through five hitters are among the most formidable in baseball: Manny Machado, Markakis, Jones and Chris Davis.
It’s possible to date the “arrival” of the O’s from the day that Manny Machado (their first pick in the 2010 draft) showed up at third base, which was on August 9 of last year. The O’s worried, worried, worried that Machado wasn’t quite ready, (he was just 20, and just three years out of high school), but he hit a respectable .262 last year and is at .277 this year.
Machado immediately showed he belonged; he singled and tripled in his debut, then hit two homers in his second game. At the end of the season, Machado’s .445 slugging percentage was the fourth highest by a third sacker his age, behind Jimmie Foxx, Bob Horner and Eddie Matthews. O’s fans took notice: the team went 33-18 after he arrived.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals got to Stephen Strasburg early, scoring three runs in the first inning against the righty, and the Nationals went on to lose to the Redbirds, 4-2. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Nationals, who were swept at home by their Central Division rivals.
What ails the Nats? Well, nearly everything: their defense has been erratic since the end of Spring Training, exacerbated now by a monumental hitting drought. The Nationals have committed 19 errors in 21 games (a National League worst), and the team is hitting a combined .235 — which is just three from the bottom in the N.L.
The team’s loss on Wednesday afternoon gave a clear snapshot of both problems. Anthony Rendon threw wildly to second in the first inning (when there was a play at home), allowing Carlos Beltran to score; the Nationals seemed to have a hard time recovering: the team squandered an important scoring opportunity in the 6th, but Ian Desmond struck out swinging.
The Nationals haven’t scored in 34 of their last 37 innings and, on Wednesday, went 0-7 with runners in scoring position. “We’re just not doing the things we’re capable of doing right now,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said following the loss. “It’ll change, but I’m going to have to jumble things up a little bit. Try to light a fire.”
The good news of the day is that, after a shaky first, Washington starter Stephen Strasburg settled down, throwing seven complete innings and retiring 15 of the last 16 batters he faced. “I was trying to throw the perfect pitch. I tell myself, ‘Don’t do that.’ Then I go out there and do it,” Strasburg said of his rocky first inning.
Despite the mounting problems, the Nationals seem quietly confident — even certain that they will live up to their pre-season expectations. Jayson Werth, who homered in the 8th inning (his fourth of the year), remains positive.
“This is definitely not the end of the world,” Werth said when faced by reporters at the end of the game. “We’re just going through it. Hopefully we’ll get over this soon and start playing good baseball and things will start going our way. At some point, I really do believe the ball will start bouncing our way.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals aren’t the only N.L. East team that are having problems at the plate. After sweeping the Nationals at home in mid-April, the Atlanta Braves have been slumping: they split a two game series with the Kansas City Royals and then lost three of four against the underrated Pirates . . .
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Adam LaRoche ended his standard early season drought with two home runs in consecutive at bats and the Nationals squeaked by the Chicago White Sox, 8-7 to bring their record to 5-2. LaRoche’s homers helped the Nationals stave off a surging Chicago line-up — and helped the team to survive some shaky bullpen outings.
LaRoche’s blasts came in the 6th inning with one on and in the 8th with no one on. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth also went deep for the home towners. “You get into the second week of the season, that’s never a good feeling to look up there and not have a hit,” Laroche said following the win. “I felt great that first series at home, I just couldn’t get the ball to fall. To come back and get a couple [tonight] was nice.”
The home runs were needed: Chicago’s Paul Konerko blasted a three run home run in the 7th inning off of Tyler Clippard to bring the score within one. Washington came back to tack on a run in the bottom of the 7th, which was followed by LaRoche’s second home run — but Chicago added two more in the top of the 9th off of Rafael Soriano, who then closed out the game.
Both Chicago and Washington were hoping their starters would turn Tuesday’s game into a classic pitching match-up, but Jake Peavy gave up six runs on nine hits in 5.1 inning, while Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez surrendered four hits in five innings. That wasn’t so bad, but Washington’s bullpen gave up seven hits and four runs in the next four frames.
Washington’s big inning came in the 6th, when the Nationals put four runs on the board — with home runs from Werth and LaRoche. “Obviously, the sixth inning got away from us,” Peavy said. “I didn’t have much there, and it was hot and humid, and I ran out of gas. I didn’t have much left with LaRoche, and he put a good swing on it.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s deja vu all over again for the Los Angeles Angels, who are repeating their slow start from a year ago. The Angels dropped a slugfest at home last night, in their opener, against the forever surprising Oakland A’s. The Angels yielded a one run lead in the top of the 7th by giving up home runs to pinch hitter John Jaso and first sacker Brandon Moss. The A’s went on to dump the Halos 9-5 . . .
Nothing seems to be working for the Belinskys, and you can read the frustration in the face of Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia. Ace C.J. Wilson came out of the clubhouse and promptly gave up three runs in the top of the 1st, but it could have been a lot worse: Wilson left the inning with the bases loaded . . .
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:
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 . . .
Thursday, August 16th, 2012
There might have been people around baseball who were shocked by yesterday’s news that Melky Cabrera had been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but the San Francisco Giants were not among them. No one knows whether Giants’ G.M. Brian Sabean knew when baseball was considering taking the action, but it might have been before the Giants swung a deal with the Phillies for the services of Hunter Pence.
What a deal, we all said — now the Giants have two solid outfielders, and could be headed to the post-season. But in reality, and particularly after yesterday, they still only have one: Sure, Cabrera might be able to come back this year, but only if the Giants make it to NLDS. Otherwise, he’s done.
Cabrera didn’t exactly argue the point. After the league office announced the suspension, Cabrera issued a statement apologizing to the Giants’ organization, its players, and its fans. “My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used,” Cabrera said. The substance in question is testosterone, which not only enhances performance but is hard to detect.
An article written by Bob Nightengale that appeared in this morning’s USA Today quotes Victor Conte, the founder of “the infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO),” as saying that Testosterone has become the PED of choice in the MLB, because “it significantly reduces the risk of being caught.” It’s possible to take Testosterone the night before a game, and have only a small amount of it in your system the next day.
The Nightengale article is interesting (once you get past his patented faux outrage), because it raises fundamental questions, though not about baseball’s drug testing policy. Rather, it raises questions about whether we’re entering an era where it will be possible to take PEDs that cannot be detected. If you take Conte seriously, that’s possible.