Series Preview in Blog: Washington Nationals

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (29-29) v. Washington Nationals (24-36)

Ramon Ortiz’s trip down memory lane continues with this weekend series at the Dome against the Nationals. The Twins are returning home after a disappointing road trip. After finishing May winning 11 of 15, the Twins struggled on the west coast, dropping 2 series in Oakland and Anaheim. The Nationals finished up a simlarly disheartening nine-game homestand in which they lost 2 of 3 to the Dodgers, the Padres, and the Pirates. This marks the beginning of a nine-game American League road trip for Washington that will take them to Baltimore (who are not well liked by some Nats fans) and Toronto after they finish here. The Nationals currently reside in last place in the NL East, 12 games behind the Mets and 5.5 games behind fourth place Florida. The Twins are 15-14 at home, winning 6 of their last 7 at the Dome. The Nationals are 10-17 on the road, and have won 5 of their last 6 away from home. Interestingly, they haven’t lost a game in which they used the designated hitter yet this year (0-0).

First off, Federal Baseball does a similar preview of the Nationals’ upcoming series that is usually posted on the morning of the first game. I’ll update this with the link if I get a chance, but it should be the top entry on the page linked above once it’s up.

If the series were taking place in D.C. the Twins would get to take in the great Presidents Race, which Teddy Roosevelt has famously never won. What would happen if he did win one?

On to the Nats:

The Nationals have been not very good since moving to Washington. Now, there are a couple of ways a fan can approach that. An optimistic point of view aligns itself nicely with the Nationals good guy manager, Manny Acta. Manny is so nice that some bloggers have begun pleading for him to blow a gasket, just once. And he tried, he really did, to no avail. The secret to remaining optimistic is to find something to occupy yourself while you’re at the game. Alternatively, a fan could go the other way and refuse the optimism of the front office and the manager.

I suppose it is possible to trace the evolution of the relief pitcher in a manner superficially similar to the evolution of man. Somewhere out of the primordial goop (variously, cricket or rounders) baseball was born, and then the first traces of the reliever began to appear, although in his original form he was hard to compare to today’s reliever and probably lacked self-awareness that he was in fact a relief pitcher.
-Basil at Federal Baseball

That was taken from this article which compares the rise of the closer as a defined position in the bullpen, to the current rise of the set-up man. Throughout that article, the author refers (and links) to this Hardball Times article that describes the rise of the closer. Be warned, it’s a long post, but I thought it was interesting, so I pass it on to you.

Try as I might, I didn’t find a post vilifying Tony Batista. Rather, it seems that the fans have just accepted that he will stink and there’s just not much point ranting about it (Although one guy does refer to him as Ass O’Plenty). However, here’s a post that asks that question Twins fans used to wrestle with time and time again, is it possible that Cristian Guzman is an all-star? He’s had a great start since returning in May (.319/.365/.457 with 5 triples) with what would be career highs in BA and OBP, so it’s not out of the question, but he’ll have to beat out Dmitri Young (.329/.403/.509) to be the Nats representative. The only other regulars with OPS over .700 are two Ryans, Church and Zimmerman (who may be suffering the dreaded sophomore slump). One thing is for sure, the lack of offense isn’t a result of too much junk food in the clubhouse.

The Nationals will be moving into a new stadium soon, and the ticket package information was recently sent out. Reactions were mixed at best, ranging from angry to irate.

Pitching matchups for the series are Carlos Silva vs. Jason Simontacchi tonight (Friday). Simontacchi’s year got started late this year as he had groin troubles, thus he only has 6 starts, in which he has a 2-4 record with 5.61 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. His last two starts have been losses in which he allowed at least 6 runs. A torn labrum (and the recovery from it) kept Jason out of the majors for the last two years so all his previous experience comes from 2004 or earlier. In fact the Twins won’t face a starting pitcher in this series who pitched in the majors in ’05 or ’06.

On Saturday it’s a matchup of Rule Five draft picks, as Johan Santana goes against Levale
Speigner. This rookie starter was actually drafted by the Twins (14th round, 2003) and pitched as high as AAA Rochester in ’05 and ’06 before the Nationals picked him up this year. Speigner started the year in the bullpen (12 appearances 3.77 ERA), but has 4 starts under his belt in 2007. Things haven’t gone smoothly for Levale thus far, and
it’s all this guy’s fault. He has yet to get an out in the fifth inning of any start and his line is not for the faint of heart (0-2, 14.44 ERA, 2.58 WHIP). Some mistakenly thought he was done after his last start. Others are trying to figure a way for him to help not only his team, but his country.

On Sunday, Boof Bonser goes against Mike Bacsik owner of a 1-2 record, a 4.13 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP in four starts since being called up from AAA Columbus in the middle of May. He had three good starts right away before cooling off in his last start (4.1 IP, 6 ER, 5 BB) against Pittsburgh. Bacsik also hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2004 with the Rangers. Since then he has pitched at the AAA level in the Philadelphia and Arizona organizations, and did an internship at a sports talk radio station in Dallas, so he’s got a career in mind if this pitching thing doesn’t pan out.

Well, that was a lot of words on the starting pitchers. I really shouldn’t have bothered since these guys will probably be gone soon anyway. The Nats have had 9 different pitchers start ballgames for them, and only one, rookie Matt Chico, has made more than 10 starts.

Finally, the Nationals pitchers may be numerous, but it seems most of them are a little bit loony too. Starting pitchers are visited by demigods while on the mound, and the relievers are looking at livestock on the internet. I just don’t know about these National League types.

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