October 2009

Lannan and Stammen Bring Joy to Guests at the Children’s Inn


Lannan Cannons 7 c.jpgNationals pitchers John Lannan and Craig Stammen visited with 10 children and their families at The Children’s Inn at NIH yesterday, their first visit to the facility which houses children receiving treatment for life-threatening diseases at NIH. The Inn was decorated for Halloween–some children already in their costumes for the evening’s Halloween party–and an air of excitement surrounded the day’s activities.

“Our mission is to take kids minds off of why they come here,” said Meredith Daly, a Media Relations Coordinator at the Inn. “They come here for really difficult journeys, they’re going through life-threatening illnesses and if we can raise their spirits and make them feel a little bit better when they come, we’ve done our job.”


Lannan Cannons 1.jpgLannan partnered with The Children’s Inn through the Lannan’s Cannons program, created mid-way through the 2009 season, in which he hosted children and their families from the Inn for a day of fun at the ballpark. Along with tickets and food vouchers for the game, John named The Children’s Inn his beneficiary for the $7,500 donation he received when he was nominated for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award. The visit began with a check presentation to the Inn in front of the fireplace.

Lannan, Stammen and the kids then settled in for a reading of everyone’s favorite baseball book: “Casey at the Bat”. The kids (and Stammen) listened intently as Lannan told them the story of mighty Casey up to bat with the game on the line. After hearing about baseball the kids were ready to enjoy the fall weather and play ball on the sports court. They lined up for a chance to throw to John and Craig. Everyone had a great time running and playing with the Major Leaguers.


Lannan Cannons 4.jpg
Lannan Cannons 2.jpg
Lannan Cannons 3.jpg“Anything like this makes the stay that much easier and keeps the days a little bit more optimistic and more upbeat,” Colleen Paduani said, the mother of Quinn (Minnie Mouse) and Declan. “The Inn is the greatest place to get away–almost like a vacation when it comes to the kids. There’s just so much stuff going on here it makes it not so bad. It’s like a second family.”


Lannan Cannons 6.jpgWhen the children had their fill of the outdoors they returned inside to find “Screech” waiting for them with Build-A-Bear Screech dolls and baseball cards for everyone. The players and Screech signed autographs and talked to the kids a bit longer before it was time to get ready for the evening’s Halloween party.


Lannan Cannons 8.jpg“This whole thing sparked up during the middle of the season. I’ve been trying to come out here the whole year,” Lannan said. “It’s just great that I was in the area and I was able to come out here and see the kids. They came to the games and supported us. I want to come here today and show our support for them. Overall, it was a great visit.”


Lannan Cannons 5.jpg“It’s good we can come out here when the season’s over and connect with the kids, get out there on the playground and have a taste of fun,” Stammen added. “It’s great to help out the community when we get helped out on the field.”

Lannan and Stammen walked with the kids to the Halloween party at NIH’s main building and spent time greeting patients, playing games, being wrapped up like mummies and celebrating with the group.


Lannan Cannons 9.jpg“It keeps you humbled,” Lannan said. “It keeps you grounded. I’m grateful to be in a place where I get to give back. They are sick–I’m glad I can be here and have fun with them.”

30 Players in 30 Days: Josh Willingham


willingham1.jpgIt was a rollercoaster season for Josh Willingham. He found himself on the bench in April and unable to hit in September. Baseball is all about managing the highs and lows. The Florence, Ala. native with a southern drawl and a hankering for hearty handshakes made the middle of the season memorable. And how could we forget the night of July 27, 2009? He never will. His two grand slams in the same game are ingrained in his hippocampus like his name in the history books.

 

There have been 17 perfect games.  There have been 15 four home run games but just 13 players have hit two slams in the same game. Welcome to the club Willingham. The odds are nearly impossible–there is a better chance you are randomly selected from a hat filled with every American’s name. “It was pretty unbelievable,” Willingham said. “That’s about all I can say really. You don’t get a chance to do something like that.”

 

He started the season as a spot starter in the outfield. He didn’t get daily at-bats and struggled to find his grove at the plate with occasional pinch-hits and starts in right field. He started only eight games in April and batted .143 (5-for-35) with one home run and two RBI. It was Willingham’s first time that he wasn’t an everyday starter. It was unfamiliar territory for him and he never got used to it. He never had too.

 

The once cluttered outfield cleared out and he became a regular starter in the outfield. From the beginning of May to August 25, Willingham batted .320 (91-for-284) with 20 home runs, 54 RBI and an OBP of .419.

 

“You have to be able to play to get in your rhythm, routine, groove, whatever you want to call it,” Willingham said. “I have never been a pinch-hitter and that was something I had to get used to. I had never really done it, so yeah, playing every day was the key to the success.”

 


josh willingham.JPGFor as productive as August 25 was–Willingham went 4-for-4 with six  RBI and five runs to raise his average over .300 for the season–the rest of the season was a constant struggle as he watched his average precipitously fall to .260. From August 26 to the end of the season, Willingham batted .139 (15-for-108) with three home runs, five RBI, 16 walks and 35 strikeouts. He ended the season with a .260 batting average, 24 home runs and 61 RBI. Don’t worry he is already over it.

 

Willingham will enter the 2010 season with a starting spot in left field, batting fifth behind Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. He will be counted on to start everyday and that could mean–if he avoids the injury bug–a career year… make that a 30 home run and 100-plus RBI season.

 

Josh Willingham Final Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

133

427

70

111

212

29

0

24

61

61

2

104

4

3

.260

.367

.496

.863

30 Players in 30 Days: Mike Morse

Mike Morse


mike morse1.JPGIf you were to look up “Jack of All Trades” in the fictitious picture dictionary, there is a good chance Mike Morse would be there. Originally a shortstop, Morse has played right field, left field, first base and third base during his career. While his 6-foot-5 frame may seem a little big for a middle infielder, he feels that he still has what it takes to play there. He also has a good head on his shoulders and will play any position to get on the field.

“People don’t look at me as a second baseman, same as shortstop,” Morse said. “But if I play, I’m going to play as hard as I can… If they tell me to catch, I’ll put the gear on.”

Originally drafted by the White Sox in 2000, Morse was traded to the Mariners in 2004 and made his Major League debut with them in 2005. During the next few years, he was plagued with injuries and only appeared in 35 games from 2006-2008. On April 1, he was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma. On June 28, he was traded to the Nats for outfielder Ryan Langerhans. In his first season with the Nats, Morse began at Triple-A Syracuse but he made his way to the Majors on August 17. He appeared in 32 games, starting seven.


mike morse2.JPGMorse has proven he can hit. In the Minors he hit .322/.383/.511 with 16 home runs and 86 RBI. While his numbers in the Majors aren’t as productive, they are misleading because he is a spot starter and has never been able to get daily at-bats. Morse’s best positions are first base and third base, places where the Nats do not need help. He was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, cutting down on his ability to put up good numbers.

“I think Mike has become a professional hitter with the White Sox, Mariners and over here with us, but where ever he is, there is someone in the way,” Interim Manager Jim Riggleman said.

While Morse would love to have a shot at playing second again, his biggest asset is his versatility and flexibility. He is willing to do whatever the team needs of him in order to keep playing. Once the Nationals find a spot for him, there is no doubt he will find success there.

Mike Morse Final Major League Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

32

52

4

13

25

3

0

3

10

3

0

16

0

0

.250

.291

.481

.772

 

Mike Morse Final Minor League Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

110

425

59

137

217

26

3

16

86

35

3

77

2

1

.322

.383

.511

.894

 

The Storen Identity – 10/27

Drew Storen, 22, is now playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League and is writing for Notes for NatsTown. Be sure to follow the tenth overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as he writes for Notes from NatsTown and gives you an inside, behind-the-scenes look at the AFL and his climb to the Major Leagues. Here is his third post… (Post ONE… Post TWO)

 


090909-161 drew storen c.JPGThanks for checking back in. Sorry I don’t post more; I am usually pretty exhausted once I get back from the field. Things are pretty much the same, our offense keeps going on a tear, and we keep trucking towards getting another ring for the Desert Dogs. Seems like every day we have someone else step up in a key spot and get a big hit for us.

 

Strasburg threw again today and was dominating again. Glad to see him bounce back and stay confident. He is obviously an extremely talented player, but also very cerebral and has the ability to step back and make the necessary adjustments to be successful.

 

In my free time this past week, I have been able to have a little bit of fun. I am a country music fan, so I got to go see Lady Antebellum here at the Phoenix State Fair. It was actually my first country concert and I went with a few guys on the team so it was very cool. I also had a chance to go eat at one of my favorite places this weekend, Fogo de Chao, and if you’ve been before, you know how great it is.

 

It’s crazy to think the end of next week is the halfway point of being down here, it seems like we haven’t been down here very long. I guess that is what happens with a 35 game schedule.

 

A lot of people ask what it is like to play with guys from other organizations. It is a lot of fun, the baseball world is very small and one way or another you have a connection with someone else just because of a common friend or teammate. Along the same lines, there is a chance you will play with or against them at another point so it’s cool to gain new friendships and meet new guys that you could be seeing down the road.

 


storen goatee.jpgSince the last entry, I had a defeat in my life. I lost in the goatee contest. Since I had been down here, I told Strasburg (Since all through college he had the Big League goatee) that I could grow a bigger and better one. After using my mirror and seeing that it was not a good look, and the inability to properly maintain it, I seceded from the challenge. Tough loss but I think I can bounce back.

 

Thanks for checking in, please shoot me questions via the comments section below or on my twitter, I am here to please the readers, so whatever you want to know… please ask!

 

 

30 Players in 30 Days: Sean Burnett

Sean Burnett


sean burnett1.JPGBurnett was acquired in the same trade that brought Nyjer Morgan over from Pittsburgh and immediately boosted the Nationals’ struggling bullpen. The hard-throwing left-hander became one of the most reliable arms out of the ‘pen this season before being sidelined by a bruised thumb on August 23rd. He was never put on the disabled list, but the injury decreased his playing time significantly.

Burnett began his career as a starting pitcher in the Pirates system. He enjoyed a fair amount of success as he worked his way up through the Minors. He made his Major League debut in 2004 and went 5-5 with a 5.02 ERA in 13 starts. Unfortunately, an injury late in that season led to Tommy John surgery and Burnett missed the entire 2005 season. He remained a starting pitching in the Minors in 2006 and 07. He became a full time reliever in 2008 and appeared in 58 games for the Pirates after he was called up at the beginning of May.

Burnett’s strongest assets include his command of the strike zone and his unusual pitching motion. He is a sidearm pitcher and throws across his body, causing the ball to take a different path to the plate than most players are used to. Even though he is left-handed, he is almost as effective against righties as he is against lefties (See chart). It appears that left-handed hitters do not get on base as often as right-handed hitters but lefties do hit the ball harder when they make contact. 

 

Burnett

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

AVG

OBP

SLG

vs. Left

97

18

4

1

3

12

11

24

.186

.273

.340

vs. Right

102

18

3

0

3

9

17

19

.176

.306

.294

 

 


sean burnett2.JPGThe trio of
Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, and Mike MacDougal proved to be a solid core in a bullpen that saw a lot of changes this year. Burnett is arbitration eligible and he will be counted on to be a stopper in the bullpen in 2010.

 

Sean Burnett Final Stats

W

L

ERA

SV/SVO

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

2

3

3.12

0/3

0

57.2

36

21

20

6

3

28

43

.181

1.11

1.34

Ryan Zimmerman: Web Gem Wizard


 
zim diving c.jpgAfter playing a stunning season at third base, Ryan Zimmerman’s defensive prowess and acrobatic grace were rewarded when he was named the first ever ESPN Web Gem Champion. For those who have never watched Baseball Tonight, a Web Gem is an honor bestowed on the five greatest defensive plays of each night. As we’ve tracked at various times in this blog, Zimmerman has collected the most Web Gems (19) and Web Gem points (61) this season (points are on a scale of 1-5 with five going to the No. 1 Web Gem and one going to the No. 5 Web Gem). He also led the Nationals to victory in team Web Gem points. Zimmerman is in some good company at the top of the leaderboard. Former Virginia teammate Mark Reynolds finished behind him with 53 points.

Some interesting facts about the 2009 Web Gems, from Buster Olney’s blog on ESPN.com:

-          309 different players made at least one Web Gem in 2009

-          Every team made at least 15 Web Gems this season

-          A total of 776 Web Gems and 2,357 Web Gem Points were awarded


 
zim defense c.jpgWinning this award has confirmed to Nationals fans what we have already known all along: Zimmerman is good at the hot corner. Baseball Info Solutions, a statistic tracking company that charted every defensive play in 2009, ranked him second in the Majors in “Good Fielding Plays” behind Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. We can also measure his success using the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). UZR measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined. UZR/150 measures his UZR over 150 defensive innings played. This year, Zimmerman had a UZR/150 of 14.1 which is tops in the National League for third basemen (Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres is second at 7.5). Just for comparison’s sake, Zimmerman’s counterpart on the Mets–David Wright–ranks last in qualifying third basemen with a UZR/150 of -10.1.

Congratulations, Ryan! We look forward to hearing your name when they announce the Gold Glove Awards later this year.

Below is the final Web Gem Leaderboard:

Web Gem points leaderboard

Ryan Zimmerman

61

Mark Reynolds

53

Jack Wilson

37

Brandon Inge

37

 

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)

Ryan Zimmerman

Washington

Third base

19

Brandon Inge

Detroit

Third base

13

Mark Reynolds

Arizona

Third base

13

David Wright

New York Mets

Third base

10

Jack Wilson

Pittsburgh-Seattle

Shortstop

9

 

Web Gem points leaderboard (teams)

Washington

141

Pittsburgh

133

Cincinnati

115

 

30 Players in 30 Days: Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond


desmond photo shoot c.jpgAfter being drafted in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, shortstop Ian Desmond made his long-awaited Major League debut on September 11, 2009. His Big League career got off to a picture perfect start when he went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run in his debut.

Offensively, Desmond exploded this year. After being a career .247/.313/.373 hitter during his first five Minor League seasons, he went .330/.401/.477 in the Minors this season. Even though he didn’t hit at that same clip in the Majors, he still tore the cover off the ball. In 21 games during the month of September, he hit .280/.318/.561 with seven doubles, three triples and four home runs.

“This is a year where balls fell in,” Desmond said. “I changed my approach to the plate. I’m a lot more confident with two strikes. Besides that, I’m just getting hits. I’m hitting the ball on the ground a lot more, which is creating base hits.”

In 2009, Baseball America’s Best Tools Survey named Desmond “Best infield Arm” in the Nationals system. While he has a strong throwing arm, he has cast some doubts due to his recklessness, collecting 28 errors in the Minors and six in the Majors. However, he is a good athlete and has great range in the field.

“He is very comfortable,” Interim Manager Jim Riggleman said. “He knows he can play here. He’s fielding the ball nicely, throwing to first nicely, [has good] communication with the other [players]. He was a real boost for us.”

As of now, Desmond looks to be the shortstop of the future for the Nationals, potentially moving Cristian Guzman over to second base. In preparation for this, Desmond will spend time in the Dominican Republic this winter playing for the Licey Tigers with teammate Elijah Dukes.

 

Ian Desmond Final Major League Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

21

82

9

23

46

7

3

4

12

5

0

14

1

0

.280

.318

.561

.879

 

Ian Desmond Final Minor League Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

97

348

54

115

166

24

3

7

32

36

 

71

21

5

.330

.401

.477

.878

30 Players in 30 Days: Tyler Clippard

Tyler Clippard


Clippard 10 c.jpgRight-handed pitcher Tyler Clippard experienced a metamorphosis of sorts this season. After being a starter for his entire career, Clippard was moved into the bullpen. He began the season in Syracuse and was promoted to the Majors on June 25 and appeared in 41 games this season, going 4-2 with a 2.69 ERA.

Clippard didn’t earn a spot in the Nationals rotation after Spring Training and was sent down to Syracuse to start the season. It was there that then-pitching coach Steve McCatty turned Clippard into a reliever. He went 4-1 with a 1.92 ERA and a .150 BAA in 24 games (one start) while in the Minors and did not allow an earned run in 19.0 consecutive innings (14 games) from May 18-June 23. After being brought up to the Majors on June 21, he ended up going 4-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 41 appearances.

Clippard has always been especially strong against left-handed batters. This year, righties hit .234/.360/.500 against him while lefties hit .122/.217/.226.  As he faced both righties and lefties almost equally, 114 and 132 plate appearances respectively, the huge difference between the two is no anomaly. This has been the trend through his short career, even as a starter righties hit .269/.379/.911 and lefties hit .167/.269/.317. It is still early but the numbers indicate that Clippard is a “reverse-splits” pitcher, as his splits are the opposite of what one would assume for a right-handed pitcher. 

“He’s still a work in progress,” Interim Manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s got to get a little better at commanding his fastball, but he’s really a rare exception to put up good numbers in spite of that. So that just shows you the quality of his other pitches.”

Now a little more comfortable in his role as a reliever, Clippard’s stock is rising. He proved to be a reliable tool in a shaky Nationals bullpen. Clippard now has his sights set on a new goal, to become a closer and is ready to do what it takes to get there.

“Absolutely. I’d love to be able to close,” Clippard said. “But at this point in my career, I’m a young guy in the Big Leagues.

 

Tyler Clippard Final Major League Stats

W

L

ERA

SV/SVO

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

4

2

2.69

0/1

0

60.1

36

20

18

9

1

32

67

.172

1.13

0.53

30 Players in 30 Days: Cristian Guzman

Cristian Guzman


christian guzman1.JPGComing off of his second All-Star season in 2008, Cristian Guzman had a good season offensively but might have lost a step defensively. The 11-year veteran from the Dominican Republic continues to be a productive hitter and a crucial cog in the Nationals lineup.

Guzman has been a solid hitter throughout his career. He had 49 multi-hit games this season, which ranks most on the Nationals, and had a 17-game hit streak. The shortstop ranks fourth on the career active triples list with 85, including the seven he hit this season.


christian guzman3.JPGOne area where Guzman could greatly improve is his plate discipline. This year he averaged 3.25 pitches per plate appearance, which is the second lowest in the Majors out of all qualifying batters. In comparison, teammate Adam Dunn is fourth highest overall and sees 4.32 pitches per plate appearance. For Guzman, this resulted in only 16 walks this season and an OBP of .306. With a batting average (.284) so close to his OBP, Guzman relies almost entirely on his hitting to get on base. If he drew more walks, he could continue to be productive at the plate even when he is not hitting the ball well. For a veteran such as Guzman, this could prove to be a hard adjustment to make.

Plans for Guzman in 2010 include possibly moving him to second base to make room for Ian Desmond at short. Guzman missed the last two weeks of the season with a shoulder injury and underwent arthroscopic surgery for it on October 8. He is expected to recover fully and should be ready for the 2010 season.


 Cristian Guzman Final Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

135

531

74

151

207

24

7

6

52

16

0

75

4

5

.284

.306

.390

.696

 

 

30 Players in 30 Days: J.D. Martin

 J.D. Martin


j. d. martin2.JPGAfter pitching phenomenally well in Triple-A Syracuse, J.D. Martin made his Major League debut with the Washington Nationals on July 20. While his first few starts were a bit rusty he eventually garnered his first Major League win on August 9 against Arizona.

Prior to the 2009 season, Martin spent eight years in the Cleveland Indians system. He overcame a number of arm problems along the way which culminated with Tommy John surgery in 2005. The surgery was a success and in 2008 he was named to the Eastern League All-Star team. Following a stellar 2008 season, the Nationals signed Martin to a Minor League contract as a way to bolster their pitching staff.

Martin more than proved his worth while pitching with the Syracuse Chiefs this season. He went 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA which earned him an All-Star selection and his eventual call-up to the Majors. He was voted Best Control in the International League in Baseball America‘s annual Best Tools survey voted upon by league managers and earned the Nationals Triple-A Pitcher of the Month distinctions in May and June.


j.d. martin3.JPGOne place where Martin surprised many people was on the basepaths. In his second Major League start, after not having any plate appearances in his eight years with Cleveland, Martin drew a walk and went from first to third on a single by Nyjer Morgan, sparking a five-run rally (see what he had to say about it
here). While he didn’t bat enough to make any significant contributions to the Nationals offense, it was great seeing him contribute to the team on the basepaths as well as on the mound.


j.d. martin1.JPGIn the Minors, Martin was a serious strikeout pitcher with great command of the strike zone and a well-crafted curveball. In 88 innings pitched, he had a strikeout/walk ratio of 6.30 (63/10). These numbers dipped in the Majors where he had a K/BB ratio of 1.54 (37/24 in 77 IP) because of the difference in hitting ability between the Major and Minor Leagues. Martin was still a key asset for the club, going 5-4 with a 4.44 ERA. What his won/loss record doesn’t say, however, is that the team was 10-5 when Martin started, which is the best out of all Nationals starters this year. If Martin can continue his success into Spring Training, he will compete for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation in 2010.

 

 

J.D. Martin Final Major League Stats

W

L

ERA

G/GS

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

5

4

4.44

15/15

0

77.0

85

40

38

14

6

24

37

.341

1.42

0.72

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