Posts Tagged ‘Ross Detwiler’

Zim Corrals Ponies

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

After enduring the adventures of a shakey bullpen — which squandered a workmanlike outing from Nats starter Ross Detwiler — a Ryan Zimmerman blast in the bottom on the ninth inning propelled the Anacostia Nine to a nail-biting 7-5 walk-off win against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Zimmerman walk-off marked the seventh time “the face of the franchise” had provided the necessary difference in a key win, a major league leading mark that has baseball abuzz with talk of just how important the former Cavalier is to his team. The victim this time was Phillies’ reliever Brad Lidge, who entered the ninth inning at Nationals Park with a 5-4 lead and the game apparently well in-hand. “He has his moments,” Philllies’ manager Charlie Manuel said of Lidge in the wake of Zimmerman’s blast. That seemed an understatement: the legendary late-innings strikeout king (more than one per inning, on average) Lidge sports a 5.57 ERA and has given up 21 hits in 21 innings — never a good sign.

The blown save highlighted the challenge the Phillies face in their race to catch the Chops for the N.L. East crown. While Phillies’ fans (and the national media) are oohing and ahhing about the addition of Roy Oswalt, the Phillies are struggling to find some stability in the back of their bullpen. The search has become nearly interminable. The Pony bullpen is ranked 10th in the National League with a spiraling ERA and no, ah . . . relief in sight. Phils’ skipper Manuel is feeling the pressure, as evidenced by his testy answers to reporters’ questions about whether choosing to pitch Lidge over, say, Ryan Madson remains the team’s best option. “I hear you guys say that for two years,” Manuel said. “I hear this and that, this and that. What the hell? We try this guy. We try that guy. We try this guy. Then I hear you [complain] to me sometimes about their roles. ‘Guys don’t know their roles.’ I can go on all night now. Let’s just drop it right there.”

The Guzman Swap: Less than twenty-four hours after baseball’s July 31 trading deadline, the game’s pundits are weighing in on the deadline’s “winners” and “losers.” In this, at least, there seems to be a growing consensus. The Yankees (with the addition of Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood), Padres (who signed up a needed bat in Ryan Ludwick) and Rangers (who snagged Cliff Lee, Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman) were the winners, while the Red Sox, Tigers and Giants (who did little — or nothing) were the losers. The judgments sound about right, but only if you are attempting to calculate what moves would put a team into the post-season. Garnering less attention are those teams (like the Nats) that traded over-welcome veterans to pursue longer term strategies. In fact, it’s possible to argue that in terms of value-for-value (and in terms of strengthening a franchise), the Nats can claim to be one of baseball’s trade deadline winners. Not only did the Nationals hang onto fan favorite Adam Dunn (true: it remains to be seen whether he can be signed long-term), they obtained a needed catcher of the future in Twinkie catching phenom Wilson Ramos.

An even stronger case for a Nats “win” can be made in a cursory study of Mike “the Don” Rizzo’s decision to swap team holdover Cristian Guzman for two minor league Texas Rangers’ pitchers. While Baseball Tonight and MLBN’s late night pundits cite Guzman’s incontestable value for a surging Rangers’ squad (Guzzie made a nearly spectacular play in last night’s Rangers’ triumph over the limping Belinskys), the acquisition of Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark, two semi-spectacular speedballers from the Rangers AA affiliate in Frisco of the AA Texas League, can be counted as solid additions. Tatusko and Roark are keepers and, if their current arc is any indication, could be stalwarts in a Nats starting rotation in 2012 — or even earlier. Both Tatusko and Roark are rough cuts (young, but built for baseball), who were drafted by the Nolan Ryan-driven Rangers vision, which rewards fastballs, control and endurance. Ryan Tatusko’s fastball is 91-95 on the gun, while Tanner Roark is a strike-em-out fastballer who rarely gives up walks. Tatusko has been back-and-forth between the rotation and the bullpen at Frisco, but he could go either way, while Tanner is a straight starter, albeit with a history of posting higher-than-we-would-like ERAs.

There’s a growing handful of commentators who pooh-pooh the acquisitions. The genetically anti-Nats blog Bleacher Report views the two as “fringe” pitchers, plowing away through the minors, while the predictably smug SB Nation mouthes a “me too, me too” judgment. Call to the Pen’s views are far more credible. CTTB projects both Tatusko and Roark as likely to get good looks at Triple-A before any possible stint in the majors (perhaps a year away), and opines that both have plus (but not plus-plus) upsides: “The Nationals made a solid trade here.” Then too, both Tatusko and Roark have stellar records, even for the Texas League. Tatusko is 9-2 with a 2.97 ERA at Frisco while Roark is10-5 with 75 strikeouts. It’s hard to imagine the Ryan-led Rangers would draft just anybody to make a walk to the mound, or that Mike Rizzo would swap-and-pay Cristian Guzman to travel to Dallas in exchange for anyone he believes is a “fringe” prospect. And we all know: if past performance is the best guide to future production, David Clyde would be in the Hall of Fame and Gregory Alan Maddux would be coaching the junior varsity baseball squad in San Angelo, Texas.

tatuskor08.jpg Ryan Tatusko image slucas66

Nats Swept In Milwaukee

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The Washington Nationals lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3 on Sunday, a game that marked their third loss in a row — giving the Brew Crew a sweep of the series and a 4-2 edge in the season match-up. As now seems common with every Nationals loss, the team was victimized by unwanted errors, poor starting pitching and a lack of timely hitting. The game featured the long-awaited return of lefty Ross Detwiler, who was sidelined by a hip injury. Detwiler’s  2010 debut was marred early on, when Willie Harris — subbing for Ryan Zimmerman at third — failed to handle a ground shot off the bat of Alcides Escobar. The error kept the Brewers alive in the inning and led to the plating of two unearned runs. A fourth inning error by rookie shortstop Ian Desmond also proved to be costly. “We have to play a lot cleaner baseball. It’s ridiculous,” Harris said after the game. “We have to catch the ball and throw the ball. We have to take the pressure off our pitchers. We need to do a better job.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Radio play-by-play guru and semi-legend Bob Uecker is the perfect announcer for the Brew Crew — with patented deadpan humor and self-deprecating remarks that dodge the seemingly endless semi-lectures that mark the Nats’ television broadcasts. His cornball comments play well in Wisconsin’s polka (that’s polka, not poker) parlors, where third generation Polish Americans sip German beer and wonder when the mill will reopen. “I inherited a castoff computer,” Uecker announced in the midst of the Brewers Saturday broadcast. “It’s so old there’s a guy under my desk with a crank . . .” (gales of laughter) . . . Uecker tends to use the word “folks” alot, but his we’re-all-in-this-together approach (which would surely flop in Washington), works well with Wisconsin’s diehard Packers, Bucks, Badgers and Brewers fans. When Ryan Braun homered on Saturday, Uecker retailed his common long-ball excitement — “get out, get out, get outta here and gone” (with a slight hesitation before his next I’m-from-the-middle-of-the-country utterance) — “Wow!” And then this: “Let me tellya folks, you go around baseball and you ask anyone about Ryan Braun they”ll tellya one thing. The guy can hit.” Through it all you’d never guess that the Brewers were struggling to stay alive in the N.L. Central, that their pitching staff is a shambles, and that their marquee player is headed out of town . . .

The 75-year-old Uecker had heart surgery on April 30 and his return to the announcing booth in Milwaukee was much anticipated. But during this weekend’s Nats series, Uecker downplayed his health problems and seemed even a little embarrassed when his doctor’s were tapped to throw out the first pitch on Friday — the beginning of the Nats’ series. “It’s good to see these guys without white smocks on,” he said. “Especially when the last time I saw them the smocks were smeared with my blood . . . ” (gales of laughter). On Sunday he noted that his doctor’s might have “done something wrong” during the operation. “They tied up something inside there and, frankly, I think it’s a little off,” he deadpanned. “Now when I raise my left leg my right arm shoots into the air. When I walk down the street people think I want to shake their hand.” But Uecker’s humor masks this blunt truth: he’s a sophisticated announcer with a talent for parsing baseball’s inner game. He presents it in blunt Americanisms– curves aren’t “curves” they’re “benders,” hitters don’t hit, they “smack” or “nurse” the “sphericals” and relievers never “struggle,” they’re “wobbly.” If there’s another way to describe someone as big or small Uecker will find it, as he did in describing Adam Dunn. “How do you not hear this guy coming?” he asked. Then later: “He loves to fish. So I’m going to strap a 9 horse on him and shove him out into the lake. We can stand on him when we fish.” Uecker likes Dunn, whose visit to him on Saturday has occasioned some comment in D.C. Uecker gave it just the right touch. “We had to put another battery in the elevator just to get him up here,” he said.

Stammen Is Stayin’

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Planning in baseball is like planning in war: no matter how good you strategize, things never turn out the way you expected. So it is with the Nats’ starting rotation. The off-season speculators shaped a starting five that included two no-brainers (Marquis and Lannan) with three or four questions. But the fill-in-the-blank wunderkinds of the press always seemed to skip Craig Stammen. They weren’t the only ones. Let me see, there was Marquis, Lannan, Olsen, Hernandez and Mock; or Marquis, Lannan, Olsen, Martin and Mock (an “m-heavy” rotation) — oh, and there was even Marquis, Lannan, Olsen, Detwiler and Wang. But no matter what the permutations there was rarely (although, some few noticed), any mention of Craig Stammen.  But the 6-3, 200 pound righty (it appears) has won a place in the Nationals’ starting rotation after a solid Florida Spring and a little attention. He’s now on the radar — and then some.  

Granted, there’s not much to look at: while Stammen showed flashes of maturity in the forgettable 2009 campaign, his let’s-not-talk-about-it sore elbow and his 4-7 5.11 numbers were nothing to brag about. Justifiably (perhaps) Nats’ fans were more excited about the arrival of “the answer” and focused on Jordan Zimmermann’s Tommy John surgery. Then too, it didn’t help that Stammen arrived in Washington virtually unannounced — one of a bevy of slump-shouldered pitchers that included Detwiler, Mock, Balester, Martis, Zimmermann, Martin and Mock. That he waited in line behind the likes of the forgettable and embarrassing Daniel Cabrera was to be expected: this was the Bowden era, a period of time in our short history now empillared in the dictionary next to the word “nightmare.”

But Craig Stammen has not been a secret to those who have watched him. The more he’s pitched the more attention he’s earned. Despite last year’s numbers, there seemed to be a sense in the Nationals’ front office that the Ohio native could turn into something special. Stammen’s strike out numbers with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Sally League were good, though  (as is common with the Buckeye), not quite heart-stopping: he struck out 109 in 143 innings. With a little more speed he-coulda-really-been-something. Even so, he worked his way up — to Potomac and Harrisburg and Syracuse. His arrival in Washington, therefore, was hardly a triumph. And yet … yet, here he is, a pitcher who is now slotted for the fourth (or even third) slot in the starting rotation and (at least thus far) a Nationals’ success; proof positive that the organization can develop pitchers.

That might be a pretty good front four: Strasburg, Marquis, Lannan and Stammen — even if we have to wait for June to see it. 

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Nats Win In 11 . . . Game 162

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Justin Maxwell’s two run home run in the top of the 11th inning at Turner Field gave the Washington Nationals a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday. Maxwell’s homer came after the Braves had tied the Nats at four in the 10th. The win was the sixth in a row for the Nats, who finish their season in Atlanta today. The Nats win came with major contributions from their young starters — including shortstop Ian Desmond (who also homered) and lefty starter Ross Detwiler. Detwiler’s Saturday outing was his second consecutive solid start: he threw five innings of one hit baseball in a classic pitchers’ duel against Atlanta ace Jair Jurrjens. But the story of the game was Maxwell’s 11th inning knock, which came with two outs and Pete Orr on second. “I was just trying to get a pitch to hit and got one,” Maxwell said after the game. “Like I said, I’m trying to do my job. When I get up there, I’m not trying to think about much. I’m trying to put the ball in play, trying to let the rest take care of itself.”

 

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Cristian Guzman will have an MRI done on his ailing right shoulder on Monday. The Nats are committed to paying Guzman $8 million for 2010, which means it will be difficult to move him. But if the Nats pick up part of his salary (and get a couple of young prospects in return) don’t be surprised to see him elsewhere, with free agent Orlando Hudson (or someone like him) at second . . . Both Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham continue to battle through end-of-season slumps. Willingham is hitting near .140 over the last thirty games, and just can’t seem to end the spiral . . . It doesn’t look like Adam Dunn will hit 40 homers this year: he’s stuck at 38, after hitting forty or more home runs in each of the last five seasons. Like Willingham, Dunn is also slumping — his average has dropped from .280 to .266 over the last ten games . . . Game 162 will feature the Nats’ J.D. Martin facing off against Chops veteran Tim Hudson . . .

Detwiler’s Curly W

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Ross Detwiler notched his first win of the season on Monday, with a 2-1 win over the Mets. The victory against the Chokes was a distinct improvement over the previous three games: the Nats’ starter was effective, the bullpen held the opposition to zero hits in three scoreless innings, and the Nats scored when they needed to. “It feels great,” Detwiler said of his victory. “It kind of feels like I got the pressure off myself to get that first victory. It’s one for the records.” The starter’s success came because he threw strikes: 65 of them in 99 pitches — with three strikeouts, nine groundouts and seven fly balls. Detwiler gave up seven hits and lowered his ERA to 5.35. Mike MacDougal, whose confidence took a hit during the series with the Braves, came on to pitch the ninth — and retired the side. Surprisingly, the Nats hitting was provided by three newcomers. Justin Maxwell went 2-4, Ian Desmond 2-3 and Mike Morse 3-4. Morse, who’s been hitting the hide off the ball, hit his third homer of the season in the sixth inning with no one on.

The Case For The Kids: Nats fans are getting a taste of what they’ll be seeing next year. Monday’s lineup included Justin Maxwell, Ian Desmond, Mike Morse and Alberto Gonzalez. While interim manager Jim Riggleman says that he will continue to play his veterans, the end of the season is turning into a kind of advanced spring training. The August 27 injury to Nyjer Morgan (and Cristian Guzman’s bum foot) has allowed Riggleman to test Mike Morse’s staying power in the bigs and so far he has to like what he’s seen. Chico Harlan quotes Riggleman as calling Morse “a professional hitter,” and the numbers bear him out: Morse is hitting .306 and seems to have shaken off the injury bug that has been such a big part of his career. Riggleman doesn’t quite know where to put Morse, but he started him in right field on Monday, in place of Elijah Dukes. Dukes has been hitting better since his mid-season return from the minors, but he’s the first to admit he has trouble hitting a curve. Then too, while Dukes’ on base numbers are getting better by the game, his power stroke has disappeared. That’s not true for Morse, who’s season total of three home runs was notched in the last three games.

The rise of Morse — and Justin Maxwell’s apparent new found ability to hit major league pitching — creates one of those happy, and rare, problems: a crowded outfield. Barring a trade (and given that Nyjer Morgan has centerfield locked up, with Willingham in left), the Nats are now set to go to Florida with at least four outfielders contending for the remaining outfield slot: Morse, Dukes, Maxwell and Roger Bernadina. While it’s too soon to tell (and a lot can happen in the off-season), if spring training were to start today, the competition for right field would likely come down to a tussle between Morse and Dukes. Dukes has helped his cause by being a good citizen and consistent nose-in-the-dirt player, but his BA continues to hover between .250 and .260. Right now, albeit in far fewer games, Morse is shaping up to be the better hitter.  

Of course, it’s possible that Riggleman (if he loses his “interim” tag) will write Morse’s name in at second base: but Alberto Gonzalez’s recent post-slump production (seven for 17 in the last five games and ten points on his BA over the last ten) and improved defense make him a contender for a starting spot up the middle. Gonzalez is no Chase Utley (who is), but there are plenty of teams out there who would love to have a second baseman who can hit .270. Over at Nationals Pride, Jeff wonders whether the Nats should sign free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson. Maybe they should. But the Nats’ weakness up the middle is not at second (Gonzalez has — count ’em — one error at second in 51 games), it’s at short — and getting Hudson doesn’t solve that problem. I’ve never understood the knock on Gonzalez: he hits better than Kaz Matsui (a lot better), fields better than Felipe Lopez (remember him?) and doesn’t have a surgically repaired and naggingly bum left wrist, like Hudson. Putting Gonzalez permanently at second (just ignor what these guys have to say about him) makes for one less thing: and frees up money to sign a top flight starter (or even a couple) and a top notch closer (if they can find one). After all, it’s possible for a team to win, or even contend, with a steady-but-not-great second baseman, but it’s impossible for them to win without a starting staff or a bullpen. If 2009 showed the Nats anything, it showed them that.

Swept In Philly, Nats Head To The Apple

Friday, September 18th, 2009

The Nats head to New York to face the faded and no-account New York Chokes after being swept in three games in Philadelphia. The latest instance of Nats futility was a 4-2 sigh at the hands of Phuzzie lefty Cole Hamels, who appears to have returned to his 2008 end-of-season form. Hamels, pitching like he meant it, had a perfect game through five. Up and down all season, Hamels attributed his good outing to the heat of the pennant race: “I think it’s being able to go out there, knowing what’s at stake,” he said following his outing. “I think anytime September rolls around, and fortunately enough, I’ve been here when we’ve had to win every game. You still have to go out there.” Hamels was aided in his victory by the continued no-show of Washington lumber: Guzman, Zimmerman and Willingham were a combined 2 for twelve against the lefty (Dunn, the only Anacostia bopper who’s actually hitting was given the night off), bringing the middle-of-the-order Nats to a stunning 2 for 27 over the last two games. If there was any good news from the last game of the sweep it was that Ross Detwiler looked passably competent: pitching five innings of four hit ball — for his sixth loss without a win.

The New York Stinks host the Nationals today on the heels of a five game losing streak, which included a just-yesterday three game sweep at the hands of the Chops, and a record of 1-9 over their last ten games. The good news for Mets fans is that they won’t have to suffer through a September collapse this year: they did that all the way back in June. The Mets are in terrible shape. Unlike the Nats, they don’t seem to have a firebrand prospect (Ian Desmond) wowy-zowing the crowd, or a potential game-changing hatchling (Stephen Strasburg) waiting to flap his wings, or a tested and still-young lumberjack (Adam Dunn) that can put the horsehide in the cheap seats. Even the most tried and truly tested Chokes’ fanatics are desperate. We here at CFG say that advisedly because the last time we talked about the Chokes at any great length there were riots in New York. We had to put on our kevlar. We had to call in airstrikes. Even so, we’ll give it another try: so what should the Mets do.

Over at The Real Dirty Mets Blog, Rusty has been going on about shaking up the dugout — a “bold move” that would change the tectonics of Citi Field and give the Moribunds some hope. His recommendation? Bring in Orel Hershiser. Not a bad idea. Hershiser has been in the running for a number of managerial posts (Rusty points out) and he was “a thinking man’s pitcher.” Hershiser might, in fact, be the spark the Mets need to shake up the on-field operations. What I mean to say is this: Jerry Manuel has lost faith in his players, and they’ve returned the favor. Manuel has made a hash of the season (injuries or no injuries) and he’s flapped his mouth on so many things so often that it’s hard to figure out what he really thinks. Worse yet, he doesn’t know how to handle the kids.

In truth, the great collapsable Mets don’t have many young stars that could form the nucleus of a future pennant winner, but even if they did Jerry wouldn’t know what to do with them. I’ll give you three examples. There was a lot riding on Mets Daniel “can’t miss” Murphy this year. The Chokes needed a big bat from one of their youngsters and Murphy was picked to supply it. Unfortunately, after 27 games the Mets’ brain trust (Manuel concurring) decided that Danny boy couldn’t play left (they called him “a disaster”), so they switched him and his leather rag to first, in the apparent belief that playing first is easier. As recently as early August, the Mets were trumpeting what a fantastic move the switch had been. But the shine has worn off and when Murphy made two errors on Wednesday, you could hear the groans all the way to Secaucus. Then too, Murphy’s “big bat” has disappeared: going AWOL at just about the same time that the genius’s in the Mets front office decided that DM would look great at first. 

The same kind of thing happened to Bobby Parnell, who began his career as a whiz-bang reliever, giving so much hope to Mets’ faithful that they were charting the World Series parade route down Broadway. The Mets finally had the one thing that might have saved them from the Tsunami of their 2007 season: a home grown reliever who enjoyed his job and did it well. So what did the Mets do? They spent a boatload of money on a couple of free agent relievers and took Bobby out of the bullpen and made him a starter: in the belief that anyone who’s a good reliever will be an even better starter. So, how’s that worked out? Since arriving on the mound, Parnell’s ERA is 5.60 and Jerry and Company keep talking about how he’s “a work in progress.” Most recently, the Chokes announced that “the experiment” was over and that Parnell was back behind the fence in center. It was the right decision. No doubt about it. But, as usual, the also-rans did it in exactly the wrong way: they treated it like a demotion. Mets fans blame Parnell for his failure as a starter. Jerry Manuel blames Parnell for his failure as a starter. The GM blames Parnell for his failure as a starter. Now they’ve set him up to fail as a reliever. Guess what: it’s not his fault.

Then there’s Mike Pelfry. The way the Mets have handled Pelfrey tells us all we need to know about the problems with the team. Pelfrey is the one guy (he’s 25) who has the kind of stuff and tenacity the Mets need. He throws hard and shrugs off losses with an I’ll-get-em-next-time attitude. Along with his better-than-average stuff, he’s a gamer who’s only going to get better. Strangely, that’s not good enough for Jerry and Company, who lost faith in Pelfrey in early September after a rocky outing against the . . . Rockies. And things haven’t been quite the same since. This is classic Mets stuff: one or two bad outings and Manuel starts looks like he’s about the weep, the front office issues reassurances to the fans that next year’ll be different and Fred Wilpon passes out radiation sickness tablets. It’s almost as if they’re signaling to Pelfrey that unless he pitches like Johan Santana he’s just no damn good.

But all is not lost. There’s hope in Metsland. Jose Reyes (once the best shortstop in the game) will return in 2010. As will Carlos Beltran. Eric, over a The Real Dirty Mets Blog, thinks that, because of the injuries to Reyes and Beltran in 2009, the Mets won’t trade them, but will try to win with them next year. They’re good, very good — and they’re the core. They’ll give it one more shot. But Eric adds: “I believe that next year will be the last for the core unless they win.” Will they? There’s a reason why you never hear the phrase “good team, bad shortstop,” and it’s because the heart of any winner is the guy up the middle with the soft hands. Reyes has that, and the bat to go with it. If he’s anything like he was just three years ago, the Mets will instantly improve. Add Beltran, a still-in-his-prime long ball hitter and game changer and the Mets (with Johan and Maine and a healthy bullpen) are (arguably) a better-than-.500 team and good enough to challenge for the wild card. But here’s the thing: even with all of that, the Mets need a change in culture and they need it desperately. They might want to start in the dugout.