November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving: Enjoy Your Pies

There isn’t a better way of saying “great job” or “welcome to The Show” than getting a shaving cream meringue pie square in the face. It screams good job, leaving both eyes squinting, stinging and blurry to make sure you remember you were important tonight. It is the single game version of the playoff clinching celebratory champagne shower.


j. d. martin pie 2.JPGThe sour taste in the mouth and tears in the eyes are imperative, they are the robust rewards to make sure you –yes, you–know you won the game. It doesn’t taste like key lime or pumpkin pie–quite the opposite–but the shaving cream pie is a tasty treat in its own right.

Pieing has taken place in baseball for a while but there isn’t a documented beginning of the tradition. On the other hand, there is a start date for the pieing practice this season for the Nats. It began on April 20th after Jordan Zimmermann recorded his first Major League victory. Starting pitcher John Lannan is the Nationals pieing practitioner.

“I was the only pitcher in the starting rotation that wasn’t a rookie, so I took that role because of that fact,” Lannan said. “I get along with them so well that I want to be the guy that says here is a pie in the face. You did a good job. Welcome to the Big Leagues.”

Jordan ZimmermannFirst start, first win and victim No. 1. Bam. As Zimmermann finished his post-game interview with Debbi Taylor, Lannan with teammate Scott Olsen emerged from the steps of the dugout. Taylor slyly stepped out of the way and as Zimmermann turned around to walk into the clubhouse, Olsen delivered a devastating Joe Louis left-hook that had Zimmermann looking like baseball’s version of Two Face. Zimmermann tried to avoid the second pie–a half hearted run along the warning track–but Lannan reared back, grabbed his right shoulder and made sure the left side of his face felt the fury too. A typically emotionless Zimmermann beamed ear to ear in a post-game interview. 

“That was definitely shaving cream,” said Zimmermann that night. “It stung a little bit but I will be just fine.”

It didn’t stop there.

Craig StammenWelcome to The Show. Bam. Stammen had just pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing zero runs on six hits to get his first Major League victory at Yankee Stadium and handed the Nats a series victory over the Bronx Bombers. That has all the credentials for the pie platter. As Taylor distracted Stammen with a few post-game questions, Lannan locked in on his target, pitching a perfect pie game to the face has never been a problem.

Lannan isn’t known for his ninja like skills but he has an uncanny ability to successfully throw pie strikes each time.

“Debbi makes sure the interviewee is facing the field,” said Lannan conceding that Debbi is in on the pie prank. “So I come up through the stairs very secretively. I try to do it half way through the conversation because they know it’s coming but they forget because they are focusing on the question.”


garrett mock pie 3.JPGGarrett Mock
Your five o’clock shadow is showing–here let me help you. Bam.

The next day… J.D. MartinShaving cream is a great way to cool down. Bam.

Ross DetwilerYour 13th Major League start was memorable. Bam.

“I change it up,” Lannan said. “I do a little splatter. I do a little rub in the face and make sure it gets everywhere. My main goal is to make sure Debbi Taylor doesn’t get any shaving cream on her clothes.”

How can you get mad at someone who is that courteous? You can’t.

Lannan might have to change his tactics in 2010. Players adapt. Players get smarter. Players find a way to avoid the inevitable. Of course, not if you are always one step ahead of them.  He can always take a page out of the Mark Lowe pieing text book–it’s not for sale and I guess it’s not actually a book but it’s on YouTube.

Last year, Seattles’ Mark Lowe pied the usual culprit J.J. Putz after he made his first start off the disabled list. During his post-game interview in the dugout, Putz constantly looked over his shoulder expecting a pie in his face. Lowe took the U.S. Army Rangers approach to pieing–attack when they least expect it. When Putz made it back to his locker, he thought he had all his bases covered to prevent a pieing. 

“You guys need to make a wall so no one can get in here,” Putz said to the media members circled around him.

It turns out the Great Wall of China couldn’t have stopped Lowe. He was already inside the circle, nestled nicely in the cozy confines of Putz’s locker behind his shirts. Lowe emerged as Putz was answering his first question. We missed you… so here is a pie to your face. Bam.

“Welcome back big guy,” Lowe said.

Pieing is a treat best served quickly, unexpected and with shaving cream right between the eyes. Whip cream would make too much sense and actually taste good.

Lannan eventually worked outside of the pitching rotation. If your reputation is the “pie person”… you might as well make it a reality.

“Once I took over as the pie guy I had to get Justin Maxwell,” Lannan said, “after he hit the walk-off grand slam in the final home game.”

Justin Maxwell… that was an amazing way to close out the season at Nationals Park. Bam.


justin maxwell pie 1.JPGHis pie days are by no means done, they might just be starting. There isn’t a hit list or wish list, just a few people he might be pieing soon… Stephen Strasburg.

“I am going to throw a 100 mph pie at his face,” Lannan said with a smile. “I am just kidding. Hopefully I get to pie him this year.”

30 Players in 30 Days: Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg


strasburg 100 c.jpgThere has never been a draft pick as highly anticipated as Stephen Strasburg. The No. 1 overall pick by the Nationals has a blazing fastball and solid mechanics. Though his contract negotiations went down to the wire, causing a lot of Nationals fans to worry, he ended up signing a four year, $15.1 million contract, the largest ever for a draft pick. Strasburg made his professional debut playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, along with fellow Nats Drew Storen, Jeff Mandel, Danny Espinosa, Sean Rooney, Josh Wilkie and Chris Marrero.

Strasburg was not drafted out of high school. He joined the San Diego State University baseball team overweight and out of shape. Yet something inside of him clicked and he changed all that. In the last three years he worked hard to lose the weight and work on his pitching, increasing his fastball from 89 mph to 102 mph. Strasburg finished up his college career with a 13-1 record, a 1.32 ERA, 59 hits allowed, 19 walks and 195 strikeouts in 109 innings pitched. He even pitched a no-hitter against Air Force on May 8, 2009.

Strasburg also got a taste for the big stage while he was in college. He was the only college player selected to be a member of the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing. During the competition, he pitched against the Netherlands and current Nationals teammate Shairon Martis. Strasburg won that game, but lost against Cuba in his next start. Overall he finished 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA and a Bronze medal.

While his professional career is still young, Strasburg is living up to the hype. Throughout the AFL he hit 100 mph on the radar gun. His change-up clocked in at 90 mph making it brutal for batters to face him. Scouts commend him for the ease at which Strasburg pitches. He doesn’t have to rear back and expend a lot of effort to hit three digits on the radar gun; he maintains his posture and form while pitching hard.

As a young pitcher, Strasburg still has things to work on, such as his location and getting used to pitching against better talent. While he will not single-handedly turn the Nationals around in 2010, he has the skill and drive to make it in the Big Leagues and will be exciting to watch in the future.

 

Stephen Strasburg Final AFL  Stats

W

L

ERA

G/GS

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HB

BB

SO

WHIP

4

1

4.26

5/5

0

19.0

15

10

9

3

0

7

23

1.16

 

30 Players in 30 Days: Drew Storen

Drew Storen


090909-161 drew storen c.JPGAs you might have read on “The Storen Identity”… Drew Storen is not Jason Bourne but he is special. He can’t fend off 30 people at once, dodge bullets or drive a car like Jeff Gordon during a high speed chase while weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. Well, he might be able to do all that… he doesn’t know. He hasn’t tried but don’t put it past him. He won’t need to if he continues to sit batters down the same way Bourne puts bad guys on their back. They are one in the same, two people extremely good at what they do. Storen saves games and Bourne saves humanity.

Storen is your typical 22-year-old that likes country music, NASCAR, twitter and rocking out as Chuck Norris on Halloween. He is just really good at baseball and that’s why the Nationals used their second first-round pick in this year’s draft to snag him. He signed the next day and began his climb through the Nationals Minor League ranks starting with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. In 28 appearances between Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg, Storen went 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA. The right-handed reliever struck out 49 and walked just eight batters over 37.0 innings holding batters to a .161 BAA. While many hoped to see Storen in the Majors during September call-ups, General Manager Mike Rizzo was keen on keeping him in the Minors and in the Instructional League.

“He needs more seasoning than that,” Rizzo said. “I don’t believe that it’s a positive developmental thing for him or any draft choice to come right to the Big Leagues. We like the progression he’s shown so far though.”

Instead, Storen was the stopper for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League in October and November. Storen pitched against the best Minor League talent from around the League and was teammates with fellow first round selection Stephen Strasburg. He was the sure-fire closer for the Desert Dogs and didn’t disappoint. The Desert Dogs lost in the championship game but Storen went 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA (1 ER/ 13.2 IP), 13 strikeouts and four saves in 12 games. 

While at Stanford University, Storen studied Product Design, a major that combines his creativity with engineering. Even with his Major League contract, he still plans to finish school and enjoys designing sportswear such as sneakers.

He is a rising star and could be the back end of the bullpen guy the Nats have been looking for since Chad Cordero.

 

Drew Storen Final Minor League Stats

W

L

ERA

SV

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

2

1

1.95

11

0

37.0

21

8

8

2

2

8

49

.161

0.784

0.71

Nationals volunteer at Food & Friends

Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen and 30 front office employees volunteered at Food & Friends yesterday. Along with volunteers from other organizations, the group helped prepare some of the 700 turkey boxes Food & Friends will deliver to their clients for Thanksgiving–people with life-challenging illnesses who may not otherwise be able to host Thanksgiving dinner for their families. The Nationals staff also helped to sort donated food and label pre-made meals for Food & Friends beneficiaries.

 


Stamman F&F 4 (Stammen).jpg“It was a lot of fun, I’m glad a lot of us from the Nationals organization came out here and do a little good for the community,” Stammen said. “We all get to go home and do our Thanksgiving. It’s good that we can provide that for some other people.”

 


Stamman F&F 1.jpg
Stamman F&F 2 (vern).jpgVolunteers helped in the kitchen, preparing turkey, chopping veggies and boiling potatoes. Each turkey box serves four people and includes a 10-12 pound turkey, sides and two pies.

 

“Food & Friends is delighted to partner with the Washington Nationals,” Executive Director Craig Shniderman said. “Not only are the Nationals, and their staff, a first-rate baseball organization, but they are also staunch supporters of their community. We so appreciate their consistent volunteerism with Food & Friends.”

 


Stamman F&F 3 (employees).jpgInteresting facts:

  • The organization began in 1987 and serves close to one million meals a year to 1,400 clients throughout Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia area.
  • They rely heavily on volunteers – approximately 13,000 give their time each year.

30 Players in 30 Days: Brad Meyers


meyers c.JPGThe Nationals organization has made it their priority to stock pile young, talented pitchers and it is starting to pay off in Washington. The franchise’s 2009 Minor League Pitcher of the Year could be one of the next young guns in the Nation’s Capital. Brad Meyers was drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft by the Mets but decided to attend Loyola Marymount (CA) University. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Nats in 2007.

 

He has the prototypical projectable pitcher’s body at 6-foot-6 with a fastball in the low to mid 90s. He went 9-7 with a 4.79 ERA with the Suns in 2008. He made a few adjustments during the 2009 season and was brilliant. He started using his legs and throwing all his pitches for strikes–it worked. He went a combined 11-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) with Double-A Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac. Meyers led all full-season Minor League pitchers with a microscopic 1.72 ERA and allowed two earned runs or less in 20 of 23 starts (87%) this season.

 

The 24-year-old went 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA (12 ER/48.0 IP) and a 3.9/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (43 K/11 BB) in nine starts with Harrisburg.

 

“Walking batters is kind of a pet peeve of mine,” Meyers said. “I don’t like to walk people. I try to force contact and make hitters put it into play. Usually things go good when I’m doing that.”

 

Prior to his July 7 promotion to Harrisburg, Meyers dominated the Carolina League, going 6-2 with a league-best 1.43 ERA (14 ER/88.1 IP) in 15 games (14 starts) with Potomac. He was selected as a midseason Carolina League All-Star and was a two time MiLB.com Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honoree (May 4-10 and June 29-July 5).

 

 

Brad Meyers Final Minor League Stats

W

L

ERA

SV/SVO

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

11

3

1.72

0/0

0

136.1

111

31

26

3

32

108

.223

1.05

1.20

Nats finalize coaching staff

The Nationals finalized their coaching staff today. Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, Pitching Coach Steve McCatty and Third Base Coach Pat Listach will return in the same roles in 2010. The club also named John McLaren bench coach, Jim Lett bullpen coach and Dan Radison first base coach.

 


rick eckstein coach 1.JPGEckstein
returns for a second season in Washington. He played an instrumental part in reshaping the offense and it showed significant gains in 2009 in runs per game (+0.40 per game), home runs (+39), batting average (+.007), on-base percentage (+.014), slugging percentage (+.033) and OPS (+.047) compared to the previous season.

 


steve mccatty coach 2.JPGMcCatty
was the Nationals Triple-A pitching coach for four seasons before being summoned to Washington on June 2. McCatty employed numerous pre-existing relationships with Nationals pitchers to help his staff post an ERA exactly one run better than that recorded in the season’s first two months (5.69 ERA from Opening Day-May 31, 4.69 ERA from June 2 through season’s end).

 

Listach will return for a second season as Nationals third base coach. Last season, Listach’s judgment saw only 11 Nationals thrown out at home plate on non force-outs, a figure bettered by only the Cardinals (eight) in MLB. With added responsibilities as the Nationals infield instructor, Listach had a hand in Ryan Zimmerman earning his first career Rawlings Gold Glove.

 

McLaren, 58, will draw on 22 seasons of Big League coaching experience, including a stint as Mariners manager for portions of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He replaced Mike Hargrove as Seattle’s manager on July 2, 2007. While skippering the Mariners, McLaren hired Riggleman as his bench coach in 2008.

 

McLaren worked on Lou Piniella’s staff for 15 seasons, and also enjoyed stewardships under Mike Hargrove, Cito Gaston, Jimy Williams and Joe Morgan. He has experienced five postseasons, including four division titles (Toronto in 1989 and Seattle in ’95, ’97 and 2001). McLaren spent the 2009 campaign as a Rays special assignment scout. He also served as Team USA’s bench coach during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.

 

Lett, 58, will draw on 15 seasons of Major League coaching experience, 11 spent as a bench coach with the Reds, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Pirates. He served as the Dodgers bullpen coach from 2001-04, where he worked alongside Riggleman, who was Jim Tracy’s bench coach at the time.

 

Lett joins the Nationals after spending the previous two years coaching in Milwaukee’s Minor League system. Lett has worked in professional baseball for each of the last 35 seasons as a player, coach, manager or front office executive. Lett is also a highly respected catching instructor.

 

The 59 year-old Radison begins his third tour with Riggleman, as the two worked together during Riggleman’s managerial stays in San Diego and Chicago (NL). Outside of his stints with the Cubs and Padres, Radison has managed, coached or scouted for the Yankees, Cardinals and Mets organizations from 1984-2006.

 

He spent the previous three seasons as the Cardinals Minor League Hitting Instructor. While there, Radison worked closely with Eckstein, and helped Rick Ankiel (as a hitter), Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus graduate to St. Louis.

 

 


listach riggleman coach 3.JPG 

30 Players in 30 Days: Derek Norris

Derek Norris


022508-207 derek norris c.JPGAll the hype surrounded Nationals first round pick Ross Detwiler after the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Fourth round pick Derek Norris went under the radar. He can’t hide any longer. He made a name for himself this season and was named the Nationals 2009 Minor League Player of the Year.

He joins Justin Maxwell (2007) and Leonard Davis (2008) as past recipients of the award. The Goddard, Kansas native, Norris turned down a scholarship to play at Wichita State and signed with the Nationals in 2007. He immediately become one of the Nationals top catching prospects. He hit .286 with 30 doubles, 23 home runs, 84 RBI and 78 runs scored in 126 games with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns this season. He paced full-season Washington farmhands in home runs, walks (90), on-base percentage (.413), slugging percentage (.513) and OPS (.926). He was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League but fractured his left hamate bone while working out in the Instructional League.

He is built like Russell Martin, a short, stocky catcher with a powerful stroke at the plate. He doesn’t have a time table for making it to the Majors, as those never seem to go as planned anyway. He will likely start the 2010 campaign with the Single-A Potomac Nationals and he has no intention on switching positions. 

“No, I’m not looking to change any positions,” Norris said. “I know my numbers look a little shaky at times, as far as passed balls and errors but I think that if I keep progressing from year to year I’ll achieve what I want to achieve.”

The Player of the Year award adds to the laundry list of accolades the 20-year-old received in 2009. The right-handed hitting slugger earned both midseason and postseason South Atlantic League All-Star honors. Norris was named the SAL Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. He was recently cited in Baseball America‘s annual Best Tools survey voted upon by league managers as the Best Batting Prospect and Best Power Prospect in the SAL. While this was a banner year for Norris, there are many more accolades to come in his baseball career.

Derek Norris Final Minor League Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

126

437

78

125

224

30

0

23

84

90

116

6

3

.286

.413

.513

.926

30 Players in 30 Days: Wil Nieves

Wil Nieves

Going into the 2009 season, Nieves was expected to fill his previous role as the Nationals’ backup catcher. When Jesus Flores went down with an injury 29 games into the season, Nieves’ role increased and he became a platoon catcher with teammate Josh Bard.

Prior to joining the Nationals, Nieves made his Major League debut with the San Diego Padres in 2002 and then later spent time as Jorge Posada’s backup on the New York Yankees. While he is regarded as a solid defensive catcher, his offensive numbers have kept him from becoming a starter.


042508-266 wil nieves c.JPGThough he finished this year with a .259 batting average, Nieves actually performed slightly better than his numbers suggest. His BAbip, or the batting average on balls in play, was .311. This shows that, when Nieves does make contact with the ball, he hits it well.

What Nieves can improve upon are his power numbers. Going into the 2010 season, he only has two career home runs–his first coming in the form of a walk-off winner to right field on April 25, 2008 against the Cubs at Nationals Park.

Nieves was slowed down at the end of the season by a pulled hamstring but is on the mend and preparing for 2010. With Flores expected to recover by next season, Nieves looks to return to his role as a veteran backstop. It’s a role he has flourished in.

Wil Nieves Final Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

72

224

20

58

67

6

0

1

26

17

1

45

1

0

.259

.313

.299

.612

30 Players in 30 Days: Jason Bergmann

Jason Bergmann


j bergmann c.jpgIn his five seasons with the Nationals, Jason Bergmann has learned to adapt. This righty spent time as a reliever and a starter before being converted back to a fulltime reliever in 2009. Bergmann started this year on the Opening Day roster but went back and forth between the Big Leagues and Minor Leagues, eventually making it to Washington for good on July 4.

Bergmann pitched well for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. In 19 relief appearances he went 1-1 with two saves, four holds and a 1.16 ERA, while posting a .212 batting average against. He appeared in a career-high 56 games for the Nationals in 2009. Overall, he went 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA and ten holds with the Nats.

This year, Bergmann raised his K/9 ratio to 7.5, up from 6.2 last season meaning he struck out more batters relative to the innings he pitched. On the flip side, his BB/9 ratio also went up from 3.0 last year to 4.7 this season, something Bergmann can definitely bring down for next year. His BABip, or batting average on balls hit into play, was .311 compared to his opponents’ batting average of .270. This shows that, when batters hit the ball off of Bergmann, they hit it well, so he needs to work on reducing contact on his pitches.

“I’m not worried about throwing a perfect strike,” Bergmann said. “I’m throwing a good pitch with conviction and knowing it’s going to be a quality pitch.”

No matter what role he finds himself in, Bergmann has always worked to improve and succeed. For instance, this year he worked on mixing his pitches better. This allowed the Nats to use him in more pressure situations, where Bergmann thrived. He finished 2009 with 10 holds and only allowed 14% (7/50) of inherited runners to score, which is below the league average of 30%. Look for Bergmann to continue to grow as a Big League ballplayer in 2010.

 

Jason Bergmann Final Major League  Stats

W

L

ERA

SV/SVO

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

2

4

4.50

0/1

0

48.0

50

28

24

7

3

25

40

.278

1.56

0.89

30 Players in 30 Days: Shairon Martis

 Shairon Martis


 
051909-171 shairon martis.JPGShairon Martis led off the 2009 season with an impressive 5-0 run over his first seven starts. This included a complete game win over St. Louis on May 2 where he struck out six, walked one and allowed five hits.

Martis has been a strong pitcher, even from a young age. As a member of the Netherlands 2006 World Baseball Classic team, Martis pitched the only no-hitter in WBC history against Panama. After originally being drafted by San Francisco, the Nationals acquired him in a trade for Mike Stanton in 2006. He made his Major League debut for the Nationals on September 4, 2008 at 21 years, five month and six days old.

While he finished the 2009 Major League season with a winning record, the record was more indicative of the production from the offense during the games he started (6.48 RSA in his first seven starts) than his ability to shutdown opposing lineups. Martis had some mechanical issues throughout the season that led to a Minor League demotion

Martis improved in the Minor Leagues, increasing his K/BB to 2.22 and lowering his ERA to 4.96. At 22, he is still one of the youngest pitchers with Major League experience and has a bright future.  

 

Shairon Martis Final Major League Stats

W

L

ERA

G/GS

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

5

3

5.25

15/15

0

85.2

83

52

50

11

4

39

34

.255

1.42

0.83

 

 

Shairon Martis Final Minor League Stats

W

L

ERA

G/GS

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HBP

BB

SO

AVG

WHIP

GO/AO

4

4

4.96

13/13

0

74.1

90

42

41

9

1

18

40

.304

1.45

0.61

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