Posts Tagged ‘Jason Heyward’

Nats Bats (And Lannan) Scuttle Pirates

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

The hitting of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and the stellas pitching of John Lannan paced the Washington Nationals to a 9-2 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday. Rodriguez led the Nats’ fifteen hit attack, with an opposite field home run, while John Lannan pitched seven complete — giving up only five hits. It was his best outing of the year and solidified his place in the rotation for 2011. “Pudge and I did a great job just mixing it up on both sides of the plate,” Lannan said after the game. “I threw some [four-seam fastballs] inside to righties and some [two-seam fastballs] into lefties. I had my changeup working again, and that’s been the pitch I’ve gone to if I was getting behind hitters. It kept them off-balance a little bit. You get a little more comfortable out there when your team puts up that many runs.”

Desmond Makes His Case: Washington Nationals’ rookie shortstop Ian Desmond is making a strong case for being considered as the N.L.’s premier rookie. But two obstacles stand in his way — he makes too many errors (31! — including two last night), and the competition is stiff. The early betting was that Atlanta’s Jason Heyward would win the award, and for a time it looked like he would. Heyward set the baseball world chattering through April and May, but his production fell off through the summer. Still: .282 with 16 home runs (and he’s only 20) could find him shoehorned into the top spot. The betting now seems to be that Buster Posey will get the nod — despite the fact that he started the season late. Tim Dierkes over at MLB Trade Rumors posted a list in April that included all of the good guesses, which included Heyward and Desmond, as well as Florida’s Gaby Sanchez, San Francisco’s Buster Posey, Chicago’s Starlin Castro, Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, Washington’s Drew Storen (and Stephen Strasburg), and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake. That leaves out Cubbie Tyler Colvin, who’s having a tremendous year — he’s stroked 19 home runs.

You can make a strong case for Desmond, who has raised his batting average over the last month from the so-so mid-.260s to .287 — an unforeseen spike that, if it continues, could see the 24-year-old ending the season near .300. And Desmond has unpredicted power, line-driving nine home runs. That number could easily increase in 2011. Desmond’s long-ball potential is a plus for the Nats, who would gladly take a .280 batting average with a handful of home runs each year — but 20? 25? Desmond says that he patterns his play on the model provided by Empire glove man Derek Jeter and his numbers show it. While Jeter seems to be struggling for homers as he ages, the pinstriper once hit 24, a number well within reach of his younger apprentice. But Jeter’s value is his day-in-and-day-out crusade in the middle of the Yankees infield, his ability to play virtually injury free and his steady glove-work. Ah, and he has a .314 lifetime BA — which Desmond might find difficult to equal. Desmond is right to emulate his hero, but he has a long way to go to reach his level (cutting down on the errors would be the way to start). It’s the fielding stats that will likely doom Desmond in any final voting for the Jackie Robinson Award, which means that Giants workhorse Buster Posey will get the nod. It’s hard to argue with that choice — with a .328 batting average, he deserves it.

Phils Stampede Nats, 11-1

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

One game a season does not make: and that’s a damn good thing. If the Nats loss at home during their opener is any indication, then fans of the Anacostia Nine are in for a long season. Starter John Lannan was shakey, the bullpen (with the lone exception of Jesse English) seemed to revert to last year’s form, and Nats’ batters just couldn’t get around on Roy “Doc” Halladay. At least in the case of Halladay that’s no surprise. The former Blue Jay was masterful in seven complete innings of work, while Lannan lasted just three-and-two-thirds.”Philly is a tough team to stop once they get the momentum,” Lannan said after the game. “The momentum kept on going, and I couldn’t stop it. I felt good at first, it’s just that the fourth inning got me. I felt good the first three innings. I wanted to have a different story for Opening Day. It’s the first game of many, and I’m not going to let it tell the story for this whole season.”

Aside from the stadium-bulging and excited home town crowd (with Phillies’ fans sprinkled liberally throughout) — and the ceremonies surrounding the actual game — the day was only marginally memorable. It actually began the night before with Washington’s obsession (and the trade of a major player from that other game), and continued into the early afternoon, with the sports media’s focus on America’s current sports megalomaniac. In Boston and New York (and Chicago, Anaheim and Atlanta), those kinds of stories would be footnotes: a sure sign that Washington will need a winner to command the kind of loyalties enjoyed by the “Nation,” the “Empire” and the “Halos.” We’ll get there, but if Monday is any indication, it probably won’t be this year.

The good news is that with the opener out of the way, Nats’ fans can now focus on the real story: whether the bullpen will show appreciable improvement over ’09 (at least Jesse English looks good), whether the platoon in right field will really work (it won’t), whether Ian Desmond is “the answer” at short (we won’t know for awhile), and whether the starting five (sans Strasburg, at least for now), can reel off some wins.

Those Are The Headlines, Now For The Details: Bad news for Cubs fans — Carlos Zambrano is still Carlos Zambrano. The Venezuelan rolling pin made Lannan look like an ace. The “Big Z” gave up two homers, hit a batter and made a throwing error as the Sluggies fell to the Chops 16-5. At least he didn’t destroy the water cooler. Lou said that he never imagined that Chicago would give up 16 runs on Opening Day. It was God-awful. Atlanta’s version of “the real deal” hit a dinger in his first at bat and the boys over at “Baseball Tonight” just couldn’t stop talking about it. They said (as ESPN rolled video) that Henry Aaron has “passed the mantle” to a new slugger — new Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward. Well, maybe. But it might be a little early . . .

John Kruk on Placido Polanco: “He’s the best number two hitter in baseball,” he said, “with the exception of Derek Jeter, who bats first” . . . Peter Gammons is fitting in nicely in his new gig, as an on-air commentator for the MLB Network, but he’s still a homer for his favorite team — and player. That said, he still issues some thoughtful insights. Last night Gammons described Frank Robinson as “the most underrated great player” of his era; that’s a new and interesting baseball category that demands some thinking. Gammons’ new category might, for instance, include the overlooked Mickey Vernon — who’s hardly rated at all. Gammons added that Robinson was overawed by the attention given to Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Yeah, that’s right. And Mickey Mantle.