Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Colvin’

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.

Nats Defeat Lowe (Again)

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Atlanta Braves hurler Derek Lowe is puzzled: while the Braves sometime ace remains an effective starter against much of the National League (even while sporting a so-so 11-11 record), he can’t seem to beat the Nats. The last time Lowe beat the Anacostia Nine was last August, but he’s been winless against the Nats Nine since, a record of futility that the imposing righthander (6-5, 230) has trouble squaring with Washington’s losing record. “I can’t remember the last time that I beat the Nationals,” Lowe said in the wake of the Tomahawks’ 6-2 loss to the Nationals on Thursday. “They’ve given me a rough time.” But it was not so much Lowe’s pitching (seven innings with 6 hits), as it was a combination of the pitching from Washington starter John Lannan (who went a strong 5.1) and a no-hits bullpen that caused the Braves fits. When coupled with big hits from Michael Morse and Willie Harris, the Nats looked unstoppable, picking up a much-needed win (that’s number 52 on the season). The Nats now head into Philadelphia, where they’ll face the red-hot Ashburns.

The Quicker Picker Upper: The inevitable has happened in Chicago, with Cubs’ General Manager Jim Hendry cleaning out the stables of the sinking-like-a-stone North Side Drama Queens. The trade of the ever-popular Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly (their most effective starter) to Los Angeles at the trade deadline was followed by the careless unloading of steady but unimpressive Mike Fontenot to the McCoveys. Now, in what can only be considered an official waving of the white flag, the Cubs have unloaded their most productive, good-glove-and-bat first baseman Derrek Lee, who went to the Braves for three maybes. The successive trades mark a generational shift in the future of the Cubs, as the front office has apparently decided that Theriot-Lilly-Fontenot-Lee powerhouse of just a few years ago has gotten too old and too mediocre to bring a pennant (or World Series championship) to the Windy City. The issue is not whether the trades should have been made, but why they weren’t made earlier. “None of us thought this was going to happen this year. We really didn’t,” Hendry said in annoucing the trade of Lee. ”It will be good for (Lee) and from that regard, I’m happy for him. But the overall situation we’re in kind of makes us all stumble between miserable and sad every day.”

Miserable? Sad? The Cubs just dropped four straight to the Padres and are a worse team than the Nats — much worse. So while Cubs fans might have been expected to be marching on Wrigley in protest at Lee’s departure, the Cubs blogosphere has viewed the trade as inevitable — and necessary. Al Yellon over at Bleed Cubbie Blue probably said it best, mixing respect for Lee with a sighing confirmation that the Cubs’ future did not include the impressive first baseman. “I salute D-Lee for his classy demeanor on and off the field,” Yellon wrote. “Some here complain that he wasn’t demonstrative enough on the field and though he was seen as a team leader, many wanted him to ‘show it’ more, though I’m not quite sure how you do that.” While Cubs fans remain oddly contemplative (there’s usually lynching parties at this point) the scapegoating of Hendry (well, perhaps for good reason) and the coaching staff has begun.

That’s probably unnecessary. The imminent departure of Lou Piniella is bound to be followed by the displacement of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, as the Ricketts’ family retools to a younger staff that reflects a younger team. Is there reason for hope? Yes. And no. The Cubs are able to field one of the game’s best young outfielders in Tyler Colvin and one of its best young shortstops in Starlin Castro. But the team’s starting pitching is a catastrophe — with few young phenoms coming up in the minors. Which is why Hendry is trading his front line for a few maybes, all of them arms. Which means that the Cubs new rotation and bullpen (with some exceptions) is now filled with a gaggle of no-names, like Thomas Diamond, Justin Berg, Mitch Atkins, Marcos Mateo and James Russell — each of these guys with (as they say) “a tremendous upside.” Roughly translation: we might, or might not, ever hear of them again.

Nats Take Chi-Town Series

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

In the “I can’t believe this is happening” 2010 season of your Washington Nationals, the late April three game series against the Cubs might stand out as one of the team’s best. The Nationals came into Chicago hovering at .500, and left two games over. The Nationals took two of three from the Cubs in a tightly played defense-and-pitching series of contests that (in retrospect) weren’t all that close. Oddly, the Nats not only won the series, they were the better team on the field. With a 12-10 record, the Nats are off to their best start since moving from Montreal to D.C. But it’s not just the wins that are surprising (or not, as the case may be), it’s the way the Nats are winning — getting solid starting pitching, playing tough defense and relying on a dependable “lights out” reliever.

The Nats 3-2 win on Wednesday at Wrigley was a model of how the Mike Rizzo makeover has taken hold: Luis Atilano pitched six solid, if unspectacular, innings, Adam Dunn ended the game with a tough near-the-boxes snag of a fly ball that kept the Cubbies off the bases in the ninth, and Matt Capps recorded his league-leading 10th save in a three-up-and-three-down final frame. Even the sometimes-shakey Brian Bruney looked good, pitching out of a two-men-on 7th inning. Bruney looked like he’s finally getting his fastball down in the zone, and gaining confidence. My sense is that Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman is desperately trying to keep his composure, while privately holding torch light parades on the team’s impressive start. “Our guys are focused and trying to play today’s game, not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow or down the road,” Riggleman said after the series. “They are just trying to win the game. Hopefully, it will add up and we win another one.”

Those Are The Headlines, Now For The Details: “Baseball Tonight” commentators are starting to take notice of the Nats — focusing, most recently, on the 10-for-10 Capps. The “who would have thought it” comments are a reflection, mayhaps, of BT’s down-in-the-mouth view of Nats’ baseball. After L.A. dropped two of three in Washington last week, BT ran a segment on “what’s wrong in L.A.” — implying that it wasn’t a matter of what Washington was doing right, but what the Dodgers were doing wrong. The lone exception is Tim Kurkjian who, when not talking about Stephen Strasburg, is celebrating his Spring Training prediction that the team is worth watching . . . The Cubs looked just average in their series loss against the Anacostia Nine. The Cubbies pitched well, but their big bombers (and the entire team, for that matter) were held homerless. That’s almost unheard of in Chicago, and shows just how effective Nats’ starters have been . . . We’ll add this: Tyler Colvin looks like the real deal. It’s going to be hard to keep the Stan- Hack-in-waiting out of the line-up, or keep Alfonso Soriano in . . .

After putting it off for several months, I am reading The Bill James Gold Mine, the most recent trademark effort from the statistical guru and now Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Red Sox. As if I don’t get enough baseball (a Nats game per day, plus the MLB Extra Innings package — this week it was the fascinating Diamondbacks-Rockies match-up), I now finish the evening with a chapter of James — like slurping ice cream after a visit to Chucky Cheeze. His take on the 1974 World Series is worth reading twice, particularly if (like me), you don’t exactly have a love affair with Dodger play-by-play legend Vin Scully. Then there’s this, in the chapter on the Oakland Athletics, one of baseball’s most fascinating teams:

“Who led the Oakland A’s in Win Shares in 2009? Andrew Bailey with his 26 saves and 1.84 ERA? Nope, he had 17 Win Shares. Jack Cust and his 25 home runs? No, only 14 Win Shares. Matt Holliday before he left? Only 12 Win Shares. It was third baseman Adam Kennedy with 18 Win Shares . . .” That is to say, if you peel away all the controversy (and complexity) surrounding the concept of “win shares,” James is making the case that Kennedy was more valuable to the A’s in 2009 than franchise marquee players Bailey, Cust and Holliday. The notion is almost counter-intuitive. That said, James has a point about Kennedy, and players like him. My own non-statistical sense is that Kennedy’s value to the A’s last year and to the Nats this year is more simply put: while Kennedy is hardly flashy and does not hit the long ball, his steady experience pours concrete into the middle of the Nats infield and batting order. I just feel better with him on the field. At the end of the year (and barring injury), we’ll find that the Nats are more likely winners when Kennedy’s in the line-up than when he’s not . . .

Adam Kennedy #29 and Cliff Pennington #26 of the Oakland Athletics congratulate one another following their victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on August 29, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Athletics defeated the Angels 4-3.

Kennedy Slap Shot Sinks Brewers

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

The Washington Nationals rallied for their second game in a row, beating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-3, behind Adam Kennedy’s eighth inning single. Kennedy’s hit went just under the outstretched glove of Brewer Prince Fielder, chasing across two runs and sealing the game. Matt Capps came on in the ninth for his fifth save in five attempts. The Nats are now an unlikely 5-5 on the season. “It’s coming together a little bit, slowly,” Riggleman said. “Piece by piece, it’s coming together. But I really feel that certainly we’re not playing at the top of our games by any means. I’m just really glad the way they’re scrapping and getting after it.”

Kennedy’s clutch at-bat came in a game where the Nats were missing two of their key pieces: Adam Dunn was ejected in the first inning for throwing his helmut on a called third strike by the third base ump, and Ryan Zimmerman remained sidelined by a sore hamstring. But the Nats, using their new-found team speed and their hitting-for-singles approach, were able to squeeze out the victory.”When you can win games and you haven’t played great, it’s a really good sign,” Kennedy said. “It should be a fun year.” Kennedy, who’s been struggling at the plate in the early going, raised his average to .214, providing needed defense at third and first. When Dunn was ejected, Riggleman shuffled his defense, putting the Nats’ newest super utilityman Alberto Gonzalez at third.

While starter John Lannan did not register the win, he was effective for the first time in three season outings. Lannan pitched a full seven innings, scattering seven hits while striking out five. The lefty was able to work through the middle of the Brewers’ order, feasting off the light-hitting lumber at the bottom of Milwaukee’s line-up. Milwaukee’s sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth hitters went a combined 0-12 against the lefty. “It shows we have a lot of depth,” Lannan said. “We’ve been able to win games. I don’t think we’ve hit our stride. We’re just building off each win.” Washington’s victim was Brewers’ reliever LeTroy Hawkins, who appeared in his second consecutive poor outing. Hawkins signed a two-year $7.5 million deal in the off-season, but has been a disappointment.

The Worst Free Agent Contract In The Majors? There are rumors that the Chicago Cubs are actually considering unloading the atmospheric contract of left fielder Alfonso Soriano — by releasing him. The rumors apparently began when baseball beat reporter David Brown circulated an update on the Cubs’ frustrations over Soriano’s lack of defense — and detailed the options the Cubs might have in dealing with their flighty star. Rob Neyer repeated and expanded on these concerns, highlighting Cubs’ manager Lou Piniella’s growing anger at Soriano’s inability to play an even average left field: Soriano dropped a fly ball against the Reds last Sunday and misplayed two others against the Brewers. Soriano’s free agent contract is among the most bloated in baseball: he’s due to get paid $18 million a season until 2014.

Reporter David Horowitz is one of Soriano’s most outspoken critics, channeling (in Bleacher Report), what has to be considered an authoritative inside-the-clubhouse judgment: “What does this guy do? If he can’t hit, he’s worthless. And he’s not hitting. Even when he does hit, at least in the past, he would get in streaks where you couldn’t get him out and he could carry a team. That’s why he got that contract,” Horowitz wrote last week. “But when he wasn’t hot, you would be better off with that little leaguer at the plate, because he’s a sure out. He has no plate discipline and he tries to pull everything. He has no plan when he steps up to the plate other than praying that the pitcher will throw him a fastball in his zone.” The Arlington Heights Daily Herald, a sometime-source on the North Side Drama Queens, headlined the Soriano reports — “Break out or you sit out!”

But could the Cubs actually release Soriano? It’s not as if they don’t have options: Xavier Nady is better defensively and is starting to hit, and the Sluggies have what some observers dub a Joe Dimaggio-in-waiting — future superstar Tyler Colvin, who’s hot Spring bat won him a place on the club and the support of the legion of Cubs’ rooters nationwide. The Cubs brain trust, meanwhile, is carefully adding wood to the bonfire — perhaps as a way of sending the tone deaf Soriano a message. Lou Piniella expressed confidence in Soriano, but he then replaced him in the outfield with Colvin on the day following Soriano’s embarrassing left field gaffe. Cubs GM Jim Hendry was not nearly so careful: he denied that the Cubs were thinking about releasing Soriano, but only after pointedly saying that playing time “will not be determined by salary.” Hendry’s got it right, of course: the Ricketts’ family might be rich — but they’re not that rich.

Alfonso Soriano

Matt Capps: Closer

Friday, April 9th, 2010

  Matt Capps #55 Of The Washington Nationals Celebrates

The Washington Nationals not only won their first game of the season, they have apparently found their closer. Clinging to a 6-5 lead heading into the ninth, the Nats brought in Matt Capps, their new free agent closer. After a tough season in Pittsburgh (57 games, 5.80 ERA), the Georgia fireballer was looking for redemption. At least for the first two Phillies’ batters in the ninth, he didn’t get it: as Nats’ fans chewed their nails, Phillies’ second sacker Chase Utley greeted Capps with a double and Ryan Howard was walked intentionally. For Washington’s long-suffering fans, this looked like a replay of ’09 — when designated closer Joel Hanrahan blew successive saves and sunk the Nats’ early season hopes. But Capps proved equal to the task, getting Jayson Werth on a long fly out (Nyjer Morgan tracked the ball down in the gap), Raul Ibanez on a short sky-out (to left fielder Willie Harris — who held Utley at third) and Shane Victorino on a pop-up to shortstop Cristian Guzman.

Capps pumped his fist in notching the Nats first victory, and was ebullient after the game:”To go through that lineup, you have to feel good about it,” Capps noted. “It was a great feeling when Guzman caught the ball because I knew it wasn’t hit well to do any damage. Nyjer did a great job on that ball Werth hit. Nyjer getting that ball saved the game.” Capps admitted that he felt the pressure: “There were a few more nerves going out in that save situation. Everything felt good today.” He added: “I threw the ball well. Today felt good.” The win also felt good for Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman. “As we saw [reliever Brian] Bruney battle there in the eighth, and the way Capps was firing in the ninth, it was really encouraging to see because our pitching has to come together,” he said. “It’s making strides. It’s coming together. When it does, it’s going to give us a chance.” The Nats head to New York for a series against the Mets.

That Other NL Rookie: While all eyes are focused on the anointed NL Rookie of the Year — Atlanta’s bopper-to-be Jason Heyward — the Cubs are now starting to feature a phenom of their own. The can’t miss Cubbie is Tyler Colvin, a former Clemson Tiger draft pick, who would have won a job out of Spring Training if the Cubs outfield wasn’t so crowded. On Thursday, the Cubs won their first game of the season — and Colvin’s bat was all they needed. Colvin’s solo shot in the second inning gave the Cubbies a 1-0 lead, propelling the sluggies to a 2-0 shutout in Atlanta. There’s surely more to come. Colvin channeled Crash Davis after the game, giving an “aw shucks” answer to a question about how he prepares for a game now that he’s in The Show — “As long as I stick with my routine, I’ll be fine,” he said. The Cubs will never suffer from a power outage (and they never have): their problem is pitching (and always was). But with Colvin pushing from the bench, the North Side Drama Queens are full-up in the outfield. Don’t expect it to stay that way. Sooner or later, Sweet Lou will have to play Colvin every day — and someone will have to go.

Is “The Fook” Coming To D.C.?

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Nats and Cubs have been in talks about a prospective trade that would bring Cubbie Kosuke Fukudome to Washington — though the reports add that the talks have not been “particularly substantive.” The Nats have apparently also floated the possibility of trading for the Brewers’ Corey Hart or the Rays’ B.J. Upton. The report, which originated with MASN’s Ben Goessling, reflects a distinct discomfort in Washington’s front office with the right field platoon of Willie Harris and Willy Taveras — players that would provide plenty of defense and speed, but not a whole lot of pop at the plate. From our perspective, a trade for Hart is more likely than a trade for Fukudome (the Brewers are unhappy with Hart’s lack of production), while Tampa is unlikely to trade Upton unless they decide, probably at midseason, that they can’t win with him.

That said, of the three players mentioned, Fukudome is the most intriguing. The Cubs had high hopes for the former star of the Chunichi Dragons (“the pride of Nagoya”) and spent oodles to get him — some $48 million over four years (with $26.5 remaining over the next two years). That’s a lot of money for a guy who hit .259 with 11 home runs in 2009. The plan for 2010 was to cut into Fukudome’s at-bats against lefties (just .242) by platooning him with former Buc and Yankee Xavier Nady (that is, Xavier Clifford Nady VI), whose kinky elbow is still kinky. But trading “The Fook” (a nickname that originated this year with Lou Piniella), would allow Cubs phenom Tyler Colvin to prove that he is, in fact, the next big thing in Chicago. And he probably is.

The question, of course, is what would Washington have to give up to get a player like Fukudome — and would they be willing to pay him the money he’s owed? The answers are: “a pitcher” and “it depends.” The name most often mentioned in these rumors, albeit by MLBTR commenters, is Craig Stammen. Stammen’s status as a solid three or four starter has been steadily rising and he’s clearly that other good young starter that the Nats need to complement Lannan and Strasburg. The Cubs could use a starter (who couldn’t?), but would more likely attempt to land another arm for the bullpen. The Cubbies bullpen is shakey, and was a year-long problem in the 2009 campaign.

It’s all spit-wadding at this point, but my bet is that if the Cubbies have their eye on anyone at all, they have their eye on Tyler Clippard, whose seventh and eighth inning heroics in Washington last year showed that he’s in The Bigs to stay. But Clippard might not be enough to land the high-profile Fukudome, which means that the Nats would have to agree to pay a good part of Kos-K’s obese contract, or throw in another arm to seal the deal. Of course, there’s more to the calculation: Fukudome is an absolutely legit big leaguer, has worn out his welcome in Chicago, is still searching for a way to hit something close to .300 — and would put fans in the seats at Nats Park. People would pay to see Kos-K play. Yeah, I agree: it would be tough for Mike Rizzo to part with a pitcher like Stammen, whose upside is only now becoming apparent. But it would be much less difficult (and after last year’s adventure in the eighth inning, I say this with a lot of hesitation) to deal someone like Clippard – and maybe a prospect or two. And why not? Willie and Willy are fine players with lots of speed, but they’re a temporary fix and are simply not going to get it done at the plate. And we all know it. Don’t we?