June 2010

Tonight’s lineups

Reds (31-24):

1.    Orlando Cabrera – SS

2.    Brandon Phillips – 2B

3.    Joey Votto – 1B

4.    Scott Rolen – 3B

5.    Jonny Gomes – LF

6.    Jay Bruce – RF

7.    Drew Stubbs – CF

8.    Ramon Hernandez – C

9.    Mike Leake – SP (4-0, 2.45 ERA)

* Mike Leake, tonight’s starting pitcher, was the first pitcher from the June 2009 draft to make his Major League debut. At 4-0, he is the first pitcher in Reds history to remain undefeated through his first ten Major League starts, although it should be noted that four other active pitchers accomplished the feat, included Livan Hernandez.

 Nationals (27-29):

1.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

2.      Niger Morgan – CF

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Roger Bernadina – RF

7.      Ian Desmond – SS

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      Luis Atilano – SP (5-1, 4.70 ERA)

* Including last night’s 4-2 win over Cincinnati, 23 of the Nationals’ last 30 games have been decided by two runs or less. Washington has played an MLB-leading 34 games decided by two runs or less.

* By pocketing the win last night, Tyler Clippard matched the Nationals (2005-present) single-season mark for relief wins with eight. Amazingly, it has taken Clippard only 28 appearances to equal the relief-win totals accomplished by Luis Ayala (68 appearances) in 2005 and Jon Rauch (88) appearances in 2007.

A year in the life of two 2009 Nats First Round Draft Picks

Inside Pitch Strasburg and Storen.jpgA year ago, Drew Storen and Stephen Strasburg were living the college life: attending classes, eating in the dining hall and partaking in the occasional Fraternity soirée. A year later, Storen is a key member of the Nats’ best bullpen in years and Strasburg is on the verge of making his highly anticipated Major League debut.

In the past year, the two neophyte Nats have experienced Draft Day ’09, record-setting contracts, a marriage and stops in Woodbridge, Va., Hagerstown, Md., Phoenix, Ariz., Viera, Fla., Harrisburg, Pa., Syracuse, N.Y. and finally, Washington, DC. It’s been a whirlwind tour, but neither hurler would change a thing.

Drew Storen

At this point last year, Storen was wrapping up his sophomore year at Stanford University. He had pitched his last game as a member of the Cardinal baseball team and was preparing for finals.

“May 25 was my last outing in college and that was kind of the big one where a lot of people from the Nats were there,” Storen said. “It seems like just yesterday but it also seems like so long ago at the same time. It’s kind of crazy.”

Just a few days later, his life was turned upside down when the Nationals selected him with the 10th overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Storen signed his rookie contract the next day and was off to Single-A Hagerstown to begin his pro career.

“For me that was the right thing to do–sign quickly,” Storen said. “From college it was–‘if I get the opportunity to sign, I’m going to go quick,’–because my goal was to make the Big Leagues last year. And I wanted to really try to get there quick and move. Doing that for me was signing and putting in my time and getting that experience.”

Storen dominated Minor League baseball last year, compiling 11 saves and a 1.95 ERA over 37.0 innings. He graduated through three levels of the Minors but never received that September Big League call-up that he so desperately wanted.” Being able to have those three or four months from last year, being able to build off of that coming into Spring Training, knowing what I need to do to face professional hitters, to handle the professional lifestyle was huge,” Storen said.

To read the entire story, pick up the latest edition of Inside Pitch at Nationals Park.

Nats are back at home vs. Reds and lineups

Back at Home

The Nats are happy to be back at home after two long road trips–they played 19 of their last 24 games on the road and went 9-15 in that stretch. It is easy to look back on the last 24 games and change a play here and a play there–by doing so, the Nats could easily have gone 14-10. But that isn’t possible. The stretch from now until the All-Star break could be a defining time for the 2010 season: Stephen Strasburg joins the rotation on Tuesday and 22 of the next 34 games are at home.

Odds are it will be a close game

The offense has struggled to score runs and that has led to a number of close games. Since May 5, 22 of the Nationals’ 29 games have been decided by two runs or less (9-13 record), including 13 contests decided by one run (6-7 record). Washington has played an MLB-leading 33 games decided by two runs or less. At the same time, the Reds have played in 31 games decided by two runs or less.

Where is the (glove) love?

On the ten game road trip the Nationals pitchers posted a 2.90 ERA (87.0 IP/ 28 ER) but they were hampered by 14 errors that led to 17 unearned runs.

“A week ago I would say we’re playing good defense,” said Riggleman. “The errors were misleading. I think the errors are misleading, but we haven’t played good defense the last week. I don’t know if we’re not concentrating as much pitch to pitch. I don’t know what’s going on. Our error total has been more reflective in the last week, so we have to cut back on that. No question.”

Hammer Time

Josh Willingham is having one of the best first two months of his career. The key to his success is staying laid-back and low key and that’s not hard for a person who embodies those words–Riggleman considers him the “ultimate professional” and “the guy you want your daughter to marry.” Willingham is batting .277 with 10 home runs, 30 runs, 37 RBI and a .428 OBP.

They are quite the numbers. There are only four players in the Majors with at least 30 runs scored, 10 home runs, 35 RBI, 25 walks and a .400 OBP in the Majors. Willingham is the only outfielder. The other three are all first basemen: Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau and Miguel Cabrera.


Reds (31-23):

1.    Orlando Cabrera – SS

2.    Brandon Phillips – 2B

3.    Joey Votto – 1B

4.    Scott Rolen – 3B

5.    Jay Bruce – RF

6.    Jonny Gomes – LF

7.    Drew Stubbs – CF

8.    Ramon Hernandez – C

9.    Aaron Harang – SP (4-5, 5.48 ERA)

 Nationals (26-29):

1.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

2.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Roger Bernadina – RF

7.      Ian Desmond – SS

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (4-3, 2.15 ERA)

Umpires are perfectly imperfect

Armando Galarraga 2c.JPGIt isn’t breaking news that umpires are human and they prove it with each mistake. It is the human element of baseball.

Most of the time, the erred call is forgotten just as quickly as the game, like this one…

 On Tuesday, Lance Berkman’s check swing on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth was called a ball and eventually cost the Nationals the ballgame. On the proceeding pitch, he drove in two runs to give the Astros an 8-7 victory over the Nats. A check swing isn’t an exact science, but roughly 50 percent of all umpires would have called it a strike–no science involved with arriving at that percentage.

But there are a few incomprehensible calls that will never be forgotten like this one…

Armando Galarraga c.JPGLast night, umpire Jim Joyce made a gaffe of epic proportions. On the would be 27th out, that would have resulted in the third perfect game in the last month, he ruled that Jason Donald was safe and Armando Galarraga’s perfect game was gone. We will call it the play–it requires no description like the catch–and you have seen it so many times it needs no description.

We could debate all day long if Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game or question whether the play should be reversed or if instant replay needs to be expanded. You could ask 100 people and you would get 100 different opinions. It is a slippery slope and there isn’t a clear place to draw the arbitrary replay line. Good thing we don’t have to decide, but in the age of instant access and immediate reactions… here are a few tweets from anyone who felt they had to vent via twitter:

Buster Olney from ESPN

“It’s just excruciating watching these replays. For Galarraga, for Cabrera, for Jim Joyce. Replay, please.”

“It’s inexcusable that this could not be addressed. The technology is in place that a dope like me knows the call was wrong while sitting on my couch — but the umpires can’t benefit from it, as well. Absolutely no good reason for them to not make a change.”

Jerry Crasnick from ESPN

“If they retroactively change Armando Galarraga’s game to a perfecto, maybe Bud Selig should consider changing Milt Pappas’s, too.”

Keith Law from ESPN

“SNL should do a sketch where Jim Joyce is welcomed into the Blown Calls Club by Don Denkinger, Tim McClelland, and the ghost of Eric Gregg.”

“If you think Selig should reverse Joyce’s call, please provide a list of all parts of baseball history you’d like him to rewrite.”

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm

“As governor, I’m issuing a proclamation declaring Galarraga pitched a perfect game!”

Random Dude

“Armando handled that situation with more class than anyone could. Everyone here is amazed with the class he has shown.”

Jay Jaffe writer for Baseball Prospectus

“Armando Galarraga showed more class in losing his perfect game than Dallas Braden did in completing his”

Bill Simmons the one and only Sports guy

“Look out Detroit, Jim Joyce isn’t done. He just ran his rental car over Kid Rock and Bob Seger.”

Adam Schefter ESPN NFL Insider

Jim Joyce asked Big Ben to please do him a favor. RT @jimwexell: Roethlisberger will talk to the media following today’s practice.”

Not to be outdone… there has already been a website created firejimjoyce.com.

Update: Galarraga was given a car and delivered the lineup card to Jim Joyce today.

The Minority Report: An in-depth look at the Nats’ Minor League system

The Nationals Minor League report (
MLR 6-2-10.pdf) is a weekly window into the Nationals farm teams, with updated standings, league leaders, team and individual player stats, and the latest team and player news.


This Week’s Top Headline


COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF:  In ten combined starts with Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg, RHP Stephen Strasburg is 6-2 with a 1.43 ERA. Strasburg’s stingy .157 batting average against is the second lowest in the Minor Leagues among starting pitchers. With 60 strikeouts and 12 walks in 50.1 innings pitched, Strasburg owns a 5.0/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and averages 10.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. In five Triple-A starts with Syracuse, he is 3-1 with a 1.27 ERA (4 ER/28.1 IP). Prior to joining Syracuse, Strasburg went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA (4 ER/22.0 IP) in five starting assignments with Harrisburg. Strasburg is scheduled to make his final Triple-A start tomorrow at Buffalo (Mets).


Chiefs 2.JPGTriple-A Syracuse Chiefs

International League North Division

30-21, 2nd Place, 0.5 Game Back


SAVE-A-LOT:  RHP Joel Peralta‘s 16 saves in as many opportunities rank second in the International League and third in the Minor leagues. In 21 appearances, he is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA (2 ER/24.0 IP). Peralta last allowed an earned run on April 30 at Toledo (Tigers), or 33 days ago. The Bonao, Dominican Republic native has fanned 30 in 24.0 innings, an average of 11.25 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. Peralta was signed by Washington as a Minor-League free agent on December 15, 2009.


START ME UP:  RHP Jeff Mandel is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA (5 ER/23.1 IP) in four starts with Syracuse. Mandel began the season in Harrisburg, where he posted a 3.83 ERA (17 ER/40.0 IP) in seven outings. Mandel, 25, was a 2009 Single-A Carolina League All-Star last season with Potomac. Following the season, Mandel played with the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the highly-acclaimed Arizona Fall League.


THRILL OF THE CHASE:  2B/3B Chase Lambin‘s .318 batting average paces Washington farmhands, ranks fourth in the International League and 13th among Triple-A hitters. He has hit safely in 38 of 48 games overall. Lambin signed with Washington as a minor-league free agent on January 7, 2010.


Syracuse Player and Pitcher of the Month – May


2B/3B Chase Lambin – hit .314 (32-for-102) with ten doubles, two triples, two homers, and 17 RBI in 28 games.

RHP Joel Peralta – went a perfect 11-for-11 in saves and did not allow an earned run in 13.0 innings of work.


senators-new-logo 1.JPGDouble-A Harrisburg Senators

Eastern League Southern Division

26-26, 4th Place, 8.5 Games Back


MY, OH MEYERS:  RHP Brad Meyers, Washington’s 2009 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, is 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA (4 ER/28.2 IP) and a .194 BAA (20-for-103) in five starts. He’s fanned 33 and walked only five (6.6/1 SO/BB ratio). The 24-year-old has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his five starts. Meyers was selected in the 5th round of the 2007 Draft out of Loyola Marymount University (CA).


THE BIG PAHUTA & DR. KIMBALL:  1B/3B Tim Pahuta and RHP Cole Kimball were promoted from Single-A Potomac to Harrisburg on May 27. In just his fourth career game at the Double-A level, May 30 at Erie (Tigers), Pahuta blasted two home runs (11,12). At the time of his promotion, he led the Carolina League with a .593 slugging percentage. Including 4.0 scoreless frames in three appearances since joining the Senators, Kimball has fired a combined 15.1 consecutive scoreless innings (13 appearances) with Harrisburg and Potomac. He’s offered scoreless relief in 20 of 22 appearances overall. The 24-year-old out of Centenary College (NJ) was Washington’s 12th-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.


Harrisburg Player and Pitcher of the Month – May


C Jhonatan Solano – batted .299 (20-for-67) with three homers and 12 RBI in 18 contests.

RHP Brad Meyers – went 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA (4 ER/28.2 IP) and a .194 BAA (20-for-103) in five starts.


potomac nationals 1.JPGSingle-A Potomac Nationals

Carolina League Northern Division

23-29, T-2nd Place, 6.0 Games Back


BURGESS KING:  OF Michael Burgess recorded 31 RBI in May, third most in the Minor Leagues during the month. The left-handed hitting slugger ranks second in the Carolina League in RBI (40) and walks (27). He has hit safely in 24 of his last 31 games, going 37-for-120 (.308) with 11 doubles, five homers and 33 RBI. The strong-armed outfielder is tied for fourth in the Carolina League with five outfield assists. Burgess, a 2-time Minor League All-Star (2008, ’09), was drafted by Washington in the sandwich round (49th overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.


IN LEHMAN’S TERMS:  RHP Patrick Lehman struck out a season-high eight in 5.1 innings to earn his third win of the season, May 30 vs. Salem (Red Sox). The 6’6″ righty from George Washington University ranks among CL leaders in strikeouts (fourth, 55) and K/9.0 IP for starters (fourth, 9.66)…Lehman was selected by Washington in the 13th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.


SCORING RUNS IS FUN:  2B Stephen Lombardozzi ranks among the top five CL hitters in runs scored (t-second, 37), triples (third, five), walks (t-fourth, 25) and hits (t-fifth, 59). The 2009 mid-season Single-A South Atlantic League All-Star finished second in the SAL in both runs scored (90) and hits (147) last season. Lombardozzi was a 19th-round pick in the 2008 Draft out of St. Petersburg JC (FL).


Potomac Player and Pitcher of the Month – May


OF Michael Burgess – hit .313 (35-for-112) with 10 doubles, four home runs, 31 RBI and 15 walks in 29 games.

RHP Patrick Lehman – in six games (five starts), went 3-1 and struck out 33 in 31.2 innings.


hagerstown suns 1.JPGSingle-A Hagerstown Suns

South Atlantic League Northern Division

28-25, 3rd Place, 5.0 Games Back


CULTIVATON OF ROSENBAUM:  In his last five starts, LHP Dan Rosenbaum has allowed just four earned runs in 29.0 innings (1.24 ERA). He has 25 strikeouts against just three walks (8.3/1 SO/BB ratio) in that span. Despite his 1.87 ERA (13 ER 62.2 IP) in 11 starts, Rosenbaum hasn’t earned a win since his season debut on April 8. The southpaw was the MiLB.com South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week for the period of May 10-16. Among South Atlantic League pitchers, he is tied for sixth in ERA and tied for seventh in WHIP (1.01). Rosenbaum was selected in the 22nd round of the 2009 Draft out of Xavier University (OH).


HOLDING HIS OWN:  RHP Trevor Holder has won four of his last five starts, going 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA (7 ER/31.0 IP). He’s struck out 20 and has issued just two walks in those contests. Overall, he is 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA in nine starting assignments. The former Georgia Bulldog has allowed two earned runs or less in seven of those starts. Holder, 23, was Washington’s 3rd-round pick in the ’09 Draft.


Hagerstown Player and Pitcher of the Month – May


3B Steve Souza – led the team in homers (five), RBI (26) and slugging (.505) during the month.

RHP Trevor Holder – went 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA (11 ER/36.0 IP) with 22 strikeouts and just two walks in six starts.


It is still early but…

Ryan Zimmerman high five Nyjer Morgan.jpgThe season is officially two months in the books. The 2010 campaign has reached the point when the contenders start to separate themselves from the pretenders–the cream still hasn’t risen to the top but this is the time of year where the record starts to become an accurate measurement of a team’s ability.

“They say if you’re in the race on Memorial Day, you’ll be in it all season,” right-hander Craig Stammen said.

There isn’t a team that is mathematically out of the playoff race–there are still 110 games remaining–but most teams know right now whether they have a shot at the postseason or not. Of course, you don’t have to look too far–the 2009 Rockies–to find a team that was left for dead on June 1 and eventually made the playoffs. The Rockies were 20-30 and 13.5 games behind the Dodgers last year on June 1 but they finished the season 72-40 to earn a Wild Card berth.

The Rockies proved that there is still a lot of baseball to be played on June 1 but we have a good idea of the haves and have not’s.

“Whenever somebody says something positive, I always say, ‘It’s still early,'” General Manager Mike Rizzo said.

It is still early but the Nats are for real. At 26-26 and only 3.5 games behind the first-place Braves, the Nats are one of the most surprising stories of the 2010 season. There are two ways of looking at it: you can be ecstatic because on June 1, 2009 the Nats were 14-36, 15.5 games out of first place and entered the All-Star Break with 26 wins or you can be slightly disappointed because they could realistically have 5 to 7 more wins.

If you were to have asked the Nationals players at the beginning or March if they would have enjoyed a .500 record on June 1, all of them would have said yes. They would respond differently today. It is a tough question because teams at the present time don’t look at their record relative to past records. Yes, they are 11 games better than they were at this point last season but teams are never satisfied with their current record–every team wants more wins and every team thinks they could have won a few of the games that they lost.

That being said, it is fair to say the Nationals are right where they want to be. They are only going to get better with the arrival of Stephen Strasburg and it is only a matter of time before their offense consistently scores runs like they did yesterday. The lack of offensive production has lead to a lot of close games–20 of the Nationals last 26 games have been decided by two runs or less (9-11 record), including 12 contests decided by one run (6-6 record). The Nats have played more games decided by two runs or less–31–this season than any team in the Majors.

Back in February, we were trying to brainstorm ways in which the Nationals could improve 22 games and become the eighth team since 1961 (the year the schedule was expanded to 162 games) to win 60 games or fewer in one season and finish at or above .500 the following season. It is now June 1 and no one is talking about only finishing .500 in the Nationals clubhouse.

Stephen Strasburg–Coming soon to a Major League Park near you

strasburg 100 c.jpgThe wait is nearly over for Stephen Strasburg. June 8 is now the official date for his highly anticipated Major League debut–assuming everything goes as planned, no postponements, injuries, etc. The Nationals made the announcement last night and single game tickets for the game quickly sold out. Right now, the only way to get tickets is by purchasing the Nats’
New Era Flex Plan.

It’s Strasburg-mania. Plain and simple. He is a baseball player with a rock star following.

“Stephen Strasburg is a rare breed,” Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs Manager Trent Jewett said. “Whatever he brings that intrigues people, I certainly understand it. It’s a great story. I think the people are attracted to power, whether it’s power arms or power swings. And the fact that he’s a down-to-earth, humble person, that doesn’t hurt.”

Everyone wants a piece of Strasburg history. He has that rare ability as a baseball player to singlehandedly sell out ballparks. He is the biggest thing in baseball since, well, people are still trying to quantify his impact.

“All of us are asking for comparables, and we can’t think of any,” Nats President Stan Kasten said.

The homepage at stubhub has a direct link to “See Stephen Strasburg.” The cheapest ticket right now is $63 for section 418, just 350 percent more than face value. Just for a quick comparison, tickets for this Friday’s game are as cheap as $6 for the same section.

His start on June 8 will conclude an eventful calendar year: he was drafted on June 9, signed less than two minutes before the midnight signing deadline in August, pitched in the Arizona Fall League, got married in January, attended his first Major League Spring Training, made a rapid accent through the Minor League system and is on the cusp of pitching in his first Major League game.

Year one is almost in the books and, hopefully, it is only the first chapter.