Results tagged ‘ Josh Willingham ’

Nats Caravan Day 4: Blogging from the Bus

Notes from NatsTown is blogging from the bus throughout the Nationals’ 2010 Winter Caravan.

Today is the fourth and final day of the 2010 Winter Caravan.

10:16 a.m.–As we were walking to the elevator, Adam Dunn appeared out of nowhere and jumped like Michael Jordan onto Josh Willingham’s back. Needless to say, they both fell to the ground like a bag of bricks.

“That definitely felt like 260 pounds,” Willingham said. It might have been the first time Dunn has sneaked up on anyone.

10:29 a.m.–Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. We just left Nats Park. It is only fitting that the Caravan experiences some weather related problems after the Nats had a billion (22) rain delays during the season. This Caravan operates on the same motto as the United States Postal Service. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will stop this Nats Caravan.

Our first stop is the Children’s Hospital and then we are heading to the PG Sports Complex to sign a few autographs. We are concluding the 2010 Caravan at White Flint Mall.

CH Riggleman.jpg
CH Ryan Zimmerman.jpg11:11 a.m.–As Brian Bruney colored, “You would be the best kindergarten teacher if you didn’t play baseball,” Dibble said. That is tough to debate.

11:32 a.m.–“I can’t lose weight,” Dunn said. Piece of advice: “If you lose weight, you lose bombs.”

11:33 a.m.–“Dunn can you smile for me so I can take a picture of you,” a lady asked. “I can smile with best of them,” he said. “That is a beautiful smile Mr. Dunn,” she replied.

11:39 a.m.–Tuneesha Watson has a granddaughter in the ICU that wasn’t able to attend. She filled in perfectly. She collected an autograph from each player for her granddaughter. “It is so cool to have the players here today,” she said. “The kids will remember this forever.”

CH Nyjer Morgan.jpg12:01–We have left the Children’s Hospital.

1:13–The snow continues to fall but the wheels keep on turning.  It definitely made the trip longer… we are right by Fed Ex Field and the traffic is as congested as if it there is a Redskins game today.

1:36–Dunn threw his phone to Zimmerman as if it was a football.  It landed well short and hit the ground. “My phone is unbreakable,” Dunn said. Zimmerman threw it back. It hit the wall…a chair… and finally stopped moving when it hit the ground. It was safe… and it’s definitely unbreakable.

PG Check Giving.jpg2:17–The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation granted the Forestville Boys & Girls Club with $5,000 to assist with programming and equipment needs. The Forestville Boys & Girls Club is an organization with a 49-year history of teaching boys and girls the fundamentals of baseball.  Their work has enabled thousands of children and teens to engage in tournament competition and to learn the values of teamwork and embrace the game of baseball.

PG Standing By the kids.jpg“We are honored to partner with the Nationals organization on this extremely important project, and extend our heartfelt appreciation for their support of our County’s youth,” said Samuel J. Parker Jr., Chairman of the Prince George’s County Planning Board.  “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship as we work together to teach our young people the fundamentals of leadership and responsibility through the fundamentals of the game of baseball.”

PG Signing Line.jpg3:02–Our boy Robert Probst from Dover, Del., wasn’t deterred by the snow and made the trip to the autograph session. If you remember from Day Two, he drove to Woodbridge on Thursday night. “I told you I would be here today,” he said. “There is nothing that could have stopped me.” He is also like the USPS. He left his house at 11 a.m. and it took him three and half hours to drive the 80 miles. See ya at NatsFest Robert.

3:34–We are now departing the PG County Sports Complex… and it continues to snow.

3:46–The electronic sign on 495 reads: “EXPECT MAJOR DELAYS… CHOOSE ALTERNATE ROUTE.”  Right at this moment the traffic is flowing freely (sounds more like a description of a river)… if only we knew what was ahead of us.

Road Traffic.jpg4:08–The Beltway just became a parking lot. We are seven miles away from our destination.

Road Crash.jpg4:40–We have gone two miles in 32 minutes… one of the few crashes.

Road Deer.jpg4:49–This picture doesn’t do justice but there were at least 20 deer prancing and dancing in the snow as if Santa was coming.

4:58–Riggleman made a trip to the front of the bus to talk to Harold the bus driver and possibly call in a reliever to speed things up. He returned to reveal the problem. “I think I found out what the problem is,” Riggleman said. “Traffic jam.”

Road Mustang.jpg5:03–Yeah, that car is stuck. It might have been the highlight on the journey. To its credit the car was more determined than The Little Engine that Could. There was just one problem–this car couldn’t. The Mustang tried to get out about every 30 seconds. We kept cheering for it… it didn’t exactly help.

5:25–3.6 miles away. I would be surprised if we arrive by 6 p.m.

5:45–“We are still 2.2 miles away,” Willingham said. “Does anyone have a DVD we can watch.”

6:04–We are sooooo close yet so far away. We just drove in a circle around the mall.

6:13–We made it. It only took 2 hours and 39 minutes to travel 22.2 miles.

Mall Signing Line.jpg
Mall Ol Roy.jpg7:17–The Caravan is over. It was a fantastic four days. Be sure to make it to NatsFest tomorrow.

Willingham and Flores agree to 2010 contracts

josh willingham.JPG–The Nationals had six players that filed for salary arbitration and today was the day when eligible players exchanged figures or agreed to a contract with the club: Jason Bergmann, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, Jesus Flores (Super Two), Wil Nieves and Josh Willingham. The Nationals agreed to 2010 contracts with Bergmann, Flores, Nieves and Willingham, thus avoiding salary arbitration. That leaves Bruney and Burnett left for salary arbitration and the hearings begin February 1 and end the on 21. There is a good chance the two will never reach the arbitrators. Last year 111 players filed for salary arbitration, of those, 46 exchanged figures with their respective club and only three had their case heard by arbitrators: Dan Uggla (Marlins), Shawn Hill (Nationals) and Dioner Navarro (Rays). Uggla and Hill both won.


Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum who qualified for arbitration as a super two will likely walk away the biggest winner much like in 2008 when Ryan Howard qualified as a Super Two and won his arbitration hearing… his salary jumped from $900,000 to $10,000,000… just a 1,011 percent raise. (To qualify as a Super Two a player must have at least two years of service, but less than three, have accumulated at least 86 days of service in the previous year, and rank in the top 17% of all 2-year players in service time. The cutoff point generally falls between 2 years, 128 days of service and 2 years, 140 days.)


–The Caravan will get the wheels turning next Wednesday, Jan. 27th with the first stop at the Unity Health Care’s Southwest Health Center in Washington, DC. Notes from NatsTown will be on board providing you with behind the scene shots, player comments and fan reactions. Be sure to follow us.


–If you are a Nationals Insider you can purchase Nationals 2010 Spring Training single game tickets before they go on sale to the general public with a special online presale Wednesday, January 20, at 10:00 a.m.


–In the News:

Bill Ladson reports that the Nats may have some interest in former Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer breaks down the 2009 Nats and looks ahead to 2010 with the projected starters and rotation.

MASN’s Ben Goessling talked with Manager Jim Riggleman.

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





































Nats end season with seven game winning streak

The 2009 regular season is in the books for the Nationals. They ended the final week with a bang. They won the last seven games, sweeping the Mets at Nationals Park with a Justin Maxwell walk-off grand slam and the Braves at Turner Field. Of course, baseball has a stat for everything and the Nationals became the first team in Major League history to lose the first seven games of the season and win the last seven games.


Game 162 lasted four hours and 18 minutes, went 15 innings, with a combined 41 players used, 425 pitches thrown, 26 hits and only three runs. That’s baseball. The Nats took a 2-1 lead when Alberto Gonzalez singled to center to score Elijah Dukes in the top of the 15th.


It was a meaningless game that meant everything. With Pete Orr playing third base, Mike Morse playing first base and Jorge Padilla playing left, the Nats made game 162 a memorable moment.


“This is going to be my strongest memory,” reliever Ron Villone said. “I haven’t been involved in a World Series, but I’ve never been in a game on the last day of the season like this — the way we turned things around. We didn’t accomplished what we wanted, but we went out there, battled and left it all out there.”


The Nationals are hoping the 2010 season brings many more winning streaks like this one that closed out the 2009 campaign, more dramatic victories and October baseball to NatsTown.


It may happen sooner than you think.


The storm clouds–literally (22 games totaling 2,460 minutes of delayed, suspended and postponed baseball) and figuratively–will eventually roll away from Nationals Park. The 2010 season is next and the forecast is favorable.


True, the Nationals didn’t look like a contender in 2009. Still, there is a growing sense of progress within the Nationals organization that has spawned optimism about 2010. So how does a team with consecutive 100-plus loss seasons turn it around? Well, it helps to first see them as a 71 win team, the pace the team has kept since the All-Star Break. That turns the math from calculus to simple subtraction. The magic number to win a wild card or a division varies each year but 90-91 wins almost certainly secures a spot. Plenty of teams have improved 20.0 games in one season. It is less of a feat than the 31.0 game improvement completed by the Rays in 2008, they too had the worst record in the Majors the year before.


The Rays aren’t the only team to complete a 180 degree turnaround in one season. In 1999, the Diamondbacks improved 35.0 games. The Giants improved 31.0 games in 1993. Since 1991, seven NL teams and two AL teams completed the climb from cellar to Division Champion. The Nats would gladly settle for the Wild Card. Nationals President Stan Kasten keeps 1991 close to his heart. It provides an immediate rebuttal to anyone who says it can’t happen. He references the 1991 Braves when looking at the Nationals future. He joined both franchises, the Braves in ’87 and the Nationals in ’06, at a similar stage in the building process–the bottom. He is using the same building principles and philosophies with the Nats that helped orchestrate an unprecedented 12 straight division titles from 1991-2003 under his watch with the Braves.


In 1990, the Minnesota Twins finished last in the AL West Division with a 74-88 record and the

Atlanta Braves finished with the worst record in the Majors at 65-97. In 1991, two teams went from worst to first, the Twins won 95 games and the Braves won 94. It took seven games to determine the World Series Champion.


There is a stark difference between opportunity and achievement–it separates a team from a 70-

92 record from a team with a 92-70 record. The Nats know that. They know what has to happen if they want to be celebrating with champagne at the end of September.


The bullpen is bolstered.

This will be the Nationals main priority. They had 20 blown saves and posted a 5.71 ERA at the All-Star break. They have revamped the relief corp and there is only one bullpen pitcher left from Opening Day. They only blew five in the second half of the season.


“I think it’s a major point of emphasis for the offseason,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “We have gotten better. We have many more capable hearts than we did at the beginning of the season. But I’m certainly not satisfied with it.”


Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard have been nice additions. Mike MacDougal has provided stability out of the closer’s role that was missing earlier in the season. Who stays, who leaves is still a question mark but a bullpen makes or breaks a potential playoff ballclub in September.


The young guns lose… young.

Kasten points to future Hall of Fame pitchers John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine’s collective sub-.500 record their first two years in the Majors when talking about young pitchers struggling early in their careers–almost all pitchers experience growing pains.


“I think our young pitchers have kind of grown up right in front of our eyes and offensively we have hit our stride,” Adam Dunn said. “It’s going to be fun next year… It’s going to be a lot of fun.”


The Nationals have watched their young guns John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann (out for the

2010 season), Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis, Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin, Collin Balester and Garrett Mock experience it firsthand. But all of them have shown signs of promise this year. The starters posted a 3.86 ERA in the month of June. At least three of them need to lose the “young”

moniker in 2010.


The defense turns hits into outs.

The Nats will be searching for a free agent field general up the middle. Their defense has drastically improved since the All-Star break but their shortstop-second baseman combo committed the most errors in the Majors this season. That isn’t a formula for success. “It’s hard to win,” Ryan Zimmerman said, “when you give the other team more than 27 outs.” Dunn has smoothly transitioned to first base and Zimmerman is a Gold Glove caliber player at the hot corner. Nyjer Morgan solidified a place in center field for the coming years and covers more ground than Rock Creek Park.


What is good gets better.

The Nationals defining moment of the 2009 season happened off the field, tucked behind home plate, adjacent to the Lexus Presidents Club, in the press conference room at 4 p.m. on April 20. The soft-spoken, clean-cut Zimmerman–with the stroke of a pen–became a National for the next five years. Add Dunn and Josh Willingham to the mix and you have a ferocious heart of the order that will carry the offense. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are in their prime offensively and if we can continue to make progress in pitching and defense,” Dunn said, “that’s the formula to go from last to first.”


Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen become the wild card.

Someday the 2009 First-Year Player Draft might be viewed as the turning point for the Nationals. Time will tell but it has left a strong first impression. The Nationals used their 2009 compensation pick (No. 10 overall) to draft Storen, a closer, who had a sensational first season in the Minor Leagues. Strasburg and Storen will pitch in the Arizona Fall League this October and will get a chance to make the team out of Spring Training. During the 1991 season in Atlanta, left-handed pitcher Steve Avery was the X-factor. The third overall pick in the 1988 First-Year Player Draft went 3-11 in 1990. He had a sensational sophomore season as a 21-year-old and went 18-8.


A veteran pitcher arrives.

The team picked up the rubber armed Livan Hernandez to eat innings in September. Will he pitch for the Nats in 2010? The Nats believe the additions of Dunn, Willingham and Morgan will attract a veteran pitcher and persuade them that it is the beginning of a good, exciting ballclub.


“We have to have a special type of veteran pitcher, who is willing to give of himself as a

teacher and mentor type of guy,” Rizzo said. “We have to get a team-oriented person, a person that is going to give his time and his knowledge. It’s not an easy task.”


The Nats task isn’t easy. Baseball teams can’t be built overnight and turnarounds aren’t instant, seamless and easy. It takes time, a lot of it. The Rays endured 10 consecutive seasons of losing. The Braves had seven straight losing seasons before 1991. But then it clicks and it will click eventually. So consider yourself warned because the future is bright and the Nationals are primed to put Washington back on the baseball map in 2010.



Capture the Caption


Coghlan – LF

Maybin – CF

Ramirez – SS

Cantu – 1B

Baker – C

Uggla – 2B

Ross – RF

Helms – 3B

Johnson – P (RHP, 13-4, 3.08)



Harris – CF

Guzman – SS

Zimmerman – 3B

Dunn – 1B

Willingham – LF

Dukes – RF

Orr – 2B

Nieves – C

Hernandez – P (RHP, 7-9, 5.26)


Capture the Caption: Submit your caption to or in the comments section. The winning caption receives a free Nationals T-shirt.
josh willingham.JPG

Hard hitting in the Windy City

hammer2.jpgOnce he made his way into the lineup, Josh Willingham began to tear the cover off of the ball. This season, he is projected to hit a career-high 28 home runs and finish the season batting over .300 for the second time in his career. With another two-home run game last night in a 15-6 romp over the Chicago Cubs, Willingham now has five two-home run games this season, including the July 27th game where he hit two grand slams. All of those games occurred on the road, where Willingham has shined this season.  Here is a look at The Hammer’s home vs. away production:
































Willingham ranks 8th in the National League in terms of percent of flyballs that are home runs (HR/FB) with 20.6 (min. 370 PA). But if you look at Willingham’s home/road splits, Willingham has hit 32.0% of flyballs for home runs on the road versus only 9.6% at home. 

The Nats have 34 games remaining in the season, including tonight’s game at Chicago. Of those, 19 are on the road, which will give Willingham a great shot at reaching some career highs.

Elias Sports Bureau had this to say about Willingham’s night last night:
Josh Willingham went 4-for-4, scoring five runs and driving in six in the Nationals’ 15-6 win at Wrigley Field. During the live-ball era, only five other players went 4-for-4 or better in one game, but had more runs and more RBIs than they had hits: Sean Casey (1999), Ken Griffey Jr. (1996), George Foster (1977), Rocky Colavito (1959) and Lou Gehrig (1928).

dukes2.jpgAlso, Notes from NatsTown would like to congratulate Elijah Dukes on his first career grand slam, which he hit in the 5th inning last night and helped the Nationals increase their lead to 9-1. Along with the grand slam, Dukes went 2-3 with two walks to break out of a 1-for-20 slump.

Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. as the Nationals go for a second straight win against the Cubs.

Lineups 8/7


Drew – SS

Romero – RF

Parra – CF

Reynolds – 3B

Snyder – C

Oeltjen – LF

Whitesell – 1B

Ojeda – 2B

Garland – P (RHP, 6-10, 4.26)



Morgan – CF

Guzman – SS

Zimmerman – 3B

Dunn – 1B

Willingham – LF 

Dukes – RF 

Belliard – 2B  

Nieves – C

Balester – P (RHP, 1-1, 3.68)


Ryan Zimmerman.jpgThe Nats completed their first sweep of the season against the Marlins yesterday and have won or tied the last five series. The Nats trailed 6-0 after two innings but they slowly chipped away at the deficit and eventually took the lead with a four-run eighth inning. It was the second-largest come-from-behind win in a home game since MLB returned to DC in 2005. (On June 17, 2006 at RFK, the Yankees jumped out to a 7-run (9-2) lead after their half of the 5th inning, but the Nationals rebounded to win, 11-9.)


“Our pitching has been our key because we have been in every single game,” Josh Willingham said of the recent success. “You have to have good pitching to be able to be in every game because you aren’t going to score seven runs a game so you have to limit the other team in runs and you have to catch the ball. And then we’ve been getting some timely hitting as well so we’ve just been playing a lot better baseball.”


It is a night and day difference from when the Nats were swept at home by the Marlins in April. That was the most painful sweep in Nationals history…


In case you forgot, the Marlins were the first team in Major League history to sweep a series of at least three games after trailing in the ninth inning (or later) in each game.


This time was different:


The Nats trailed 4-0 in the bottom of the eight but scored six runs in the inning to take a 6-4 lead. Adam Dunn blasted an opposite field two-run shot to break the tie and give the Nats the eventual 6-4 win.


The Nats jumped out to an early 5-1 lead and Mike MacDougal entered in the ninth with a 5-4 lead and saved his fourth game in four days.


The Marlins scored six runs in the first two innings and knocked starter Craig Stammen out of the game. It was a game the Nats would have lost before the break but Ryan Zimmerman led the comeback going 4-for-4 with three RBIs, three runs and was a double away from the cycle. The bullpen was sensational and the offense kept the heat on the Marlins to win 12-8.


Father’s Day is tomorrow!

Celebrate Father’s Day at Nationals Park. Click HERE to watch the Nats battle the Blue Jays.


Ryan Zimmerman 1.jpg
             Ryan Zimmerman always had a bat in his hand and his dad near by growing up.

Ryan Zimmerman 2.jpg

“My favorite memory with my dad would probably have to be just when we were younger, just going to the beach or playing golf. The little things like that were always fun,” Ryan Zimmerman said.

“One of the favorite memories with my father is just being outside, playing sports and going to baseball games,” Josh Willingham said.  He is a proud father himself. “I am developing new memories everyday just watching my little boy grow up.”


“I would like to say thanks to my father for supporting me throughout my career and continuing to support me. Love you Dad,” John Lannan said.


Nats reinstate Josh Willingham

The Nats reinstated outfielder Josh Willingham from the Bereavement List and optioned outfielder Corey Patterson to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs today.


Willingham missed the last six games after he was placed on the Bereavement List on June 13. He is batting .294 (25-for-85) with eight home runs and a .635 slugging percentage in his last 28 games played. He is 10-for-28 (.357) with three homers in his last nine games. The 30-year-old ranks third on the Nationals with nine home runs, despite playing in only 44 of the team’s 66 games. Willingham has averaged one home run every 13.56 at bats this season, second on the club behind only Adam Dunn (1/12.83).


Patterson, 29, batted .133 (2-for-15) with two stolen bases in five games with Washington.

Josh Willingham placed on Bereavement List

The Nationals selected outfielder Corey Patterson from Syracuse of the Triple-A International League, placed outfielder Josh Willingham on the Bereavement List and transferred right-handed pitcher Terrell Young to the 60-Day DL.

After a slow start this season, Patterson has batted .302 (35-for-116) with eight doubles, six home runs and 23 RBI over a 39-game span in May and June. His eight stolen bases in 2009 are tied for the Chiefs team lead.

Over nine Big League seasons (2000-08), Patterson has batted .253 with 104 home runs and 363 RBI in 991 career games. He possesses a rare blend of power and speed, and has posted a stolen base success rate of 74.8 (182 steals in 232 attempts) for his career. The 29-year-old ranks sixth among active major leaguers with 80 bunt hits.

A former first-round pick (third overall by Chicago-NL in 1998 Draft), Patterson signed with Washington as a Minor League free agent on December 18, 2008.

Willingham has batted .294 (25-for-85) with eight home runs and a .635 slugging percentage in his last 28 games played and he has gone 10-for-28 (.357) with three homers in his last nine games.