Results tagged ‘ Sean Burnett ’

Nats Seek a Seattle Sweep

The Nationals won the series last night with a 2-1 victory over the Mariners, thanks to solid pitching performances by John Lannan, Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen. They’ll attempt to sweep the series and get a game over .500 today.

Here are today’s lineups:

 

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki – RF

Dustin Ackley – 2B

Adam Kennedy – 3B

Justin Smoak – 1B

Miguel Olivo – C

Mike Carp – LF

Franklin Gutierrez – CF

Justin Wilson – SS

Michael Pineda – P

 

Nationals:

Roger Bernadina – CF

Jayson Werth – RF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Ivan Rodriguez – C

Jerry Hairston – LF

Jason Marquis – P

Ian Desmond – SS

 

*In three career starts against the Mariners, Jason Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s struck them out 13 times while allowing only one home run.

 

*With last night’s victory, this has been the latest in any season since the end of the 2005 season (when they ended the season at 81-81) that the Nationals have been at .500. The last time they were even this year was May 11.

15 down, 147 to go

It is only 15 games into the season—just under 1/10th of the way through—and the Nationals moved over the .500 mark for the first time on Sunday. Granted, it is early and trying to predict future success on current records is senseless. At that same time, the current record isn’t meaningless and it is always better to be 10-5 then 5-10 even if neither record predicts future success. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know how the past 15 games have unfolded. The Nats are 8-7 and here are four things that probably flew under the radar:

On Friday night, the Nats won the game playing a brand of old-school, small ball baseball. The play is the epitome of who Jayson Werth is as a person, a hard-nose player willing to win at all costs and he doesn’t care if it is pretty. In the bottom of the 10th inning with the game tied 3-3, Werth reached on a throwing error by Yunesky Betancourt and immediately took second on the passed ball. It is tough to say how many runners would have remained at first base but Werth and all quality base runners look over their right shoulder when they get to first base in case there is a passed ball—it allows them to pick up the ball right away. Adam LaRoche stepped to the plate and on a 1-1 count, Werth stole third. “We’re having a hard time getting the bats going,” Werth said. “When that’s the case, you have to do something extra a little bit.”

LaRoche worked the count full and chopped a hard grounder to Prince Fielder at first base. Werth was running on contact and easily beat Fielder’s high throw to home. The ball didn’t leave the infield that inning and the Nats didn’t record a hit but they got their run. That’s all that mattered. It’s a brand of baseball that you will see more often.

There was an interesting three up, three down inning for the Nats on Sunday in the second game of the doubleheader. Michael Morse tried to stretch a single into a double but was gunned out by Ryan Braun’s right arm at second. LaRoche singled to right the next at-bat and then Wilson Ramos ground into a 5-4-3 double play. The Nats recorded two hits and only sent three players to the plate. Does anyone know of an instance in which three hits were recorded in an inning and only three hitters batted? I can think of many scenarios in which this could happen, all of which seem rather unrealistic, but conventional wisdom always seems to be turned on its head in baseball. The most obvious scenario is three straight batters trying to stretch a single into a double. It is the most obvious scenario and you would think the least likely. You can only assume after watching two teammates getting gunned out at second, the third batter would do everything in his control not to be that guy. That being said, I am sure it has happened.

Speaking of conventional wisdom, the common belief entering the season was that the Nationals starting rotation was their biggest shortcoming. That hasn’t been the case. The eclectic starting staff has strutted their stuff in the first 15 games, recording 10 quality starts (tied for second in the Majors) and pitching at least 5.0 innings in each game. They are the only team that can say that. The starters have a 3.30 ERA, good for fifth in the Majors, and have walked just 21 batters, good for 28th. That is a recipe for success.

Manager Jim Riggleman has shown that he will rely on three arms when the Nats are up by a run: Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett—it has been in that order so far this season. The big three have a collective ERA of 1.55 (29.0 IP/ 5 ER) with 27 strikeouts. We don’t quite know who will be the closer in September though. The Nats haven’t officially named Burnett the closer but he has been given every opportunity in the ninth so far this season, so it is tough to call it a closer by committee. “I’ve got the chances so far,” Burnett said. “But I understand that Drew was drafted for it with the kind of arm he has. I kind of feel that it’s more my job right now to do as well as I can, but to also help him potentially take over.” Drew Storen did pick up the save on Sunday in the night cap but it wasn’t a save situation entering the ninth inning.

The List: 50 things to look forward to in 2011

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

Hey NatsTown. Thanks for again stopping by.

 

Big weekend down here. Two more wins, including Saturday’s 6-5 comeback win over the Yankees in front of a packed house at Space Coast Stadium. We are now 10-5 on the Spring. Only the Braves (11-5) have a better record in the Grapefruit League. Feels good! We lost today’s home matchup with the Tigers, 4-1, but Jason Marquis continued to pitch very well. I think we are beginning to see the “real” Jason Marquis now.

 

Want to change things up today. Peek just about anywhere on television or at your favorite newsstand and you’ll quickly notice that our society is fixated on lists.

Honestly, who does not appreciate a good list after all? They are fun, thought provoking and stir debate.

 

With this in mind, I am going to list 50 “things” I am interested in, excited about or intrigued by entering the 2011 season.

 

This list is in no particular order, but I hope this spurs some dialogue and/or discussion among your fellow Nationals fans and friends.

Please feel free to send along your own admissions.

 

Let’s get started …

 

1.      Opening Day. Packed house, a big win over the Braves. I had to list this first, right?

2.      Jordan Zimmermann’s evolution in first complete season since having Tommy John surgery.

3.      The buzz at Nationals Park when Henry Rodriguez hits triple digits on the radar gun.

4.      The number of ways Jim Riggleman can pencil in Zimmerman, Werth, LaRoche in the 3-4-5 slots. Or will it be just one?

5.      Witness day-to-day Pudge’s march toward 3000 hits.

6.      The new food options opening up during the season at Nationals Park. This won’t be a small list.

7.      How much has Screech worked out this offseason? Will he again be svelte Screech?

8.      Our outfield defense. You have to think it will be really strong under almost every alignment Rizzo and Riggleman come up with.

9.      Ian Desmond’s defense. With a year of maturity and experience under his belt, and LaRoche’s vacuum-like glove at first base, how many fewer errors will he make without compromising his elite range.

10.  Will Sean Burnett continue to be as good a left-handed middle reliever as there is in MLB? I bet he will be with continued good health.

11.  Jayson Werth’s professionalism and its affect on our clubhouse. And how his presence in the middle of our lineup will positively affect our run production.

12.  Roger Bernadina or Nyjer Morgan, who will have more bunt hits.

13.  Who will lead the team in hustle hits (aka infield hits)? My bet is on Ian Desmond. But watch out for Danny Espinosa, plus he gets more than half his at-bats from the left side.

14.  When will we see Rick Ankiel’s legendary outfield arm pay dividends for the first time. Cannot wait.

15.  Will Tyler Clippard stick with “Peaches” as his intro song. Hope so.

16.  How will Jim Riggleman use his bench, which is as talented and as deep as we have known here.

17.  How many pinch homers will Matt Stairs hit? How many of those will be game-changers.

18.  Does Michael Morse put it all together? His prospects look good, don’t they?

19.  How noticeable and tangible will our renewed emphasis on baserunning be? Should be really fun seeing a lot of first-to-third, first-to-home on a double, etc.

20.  See Livan throw a ‘Bugs Bunny’ changeup that registers in the low 60s on the radar gun?

21.  Will Ryan Zimmerman win his 3rd straight Silver Slugger?

22.  Can Ryan rightfully reclaim his Gold Glove? I bet “yes.” Having Mr. LaRoche as a target won’t hurt.

23.  Interested to see Wilson Ramos’ arm and, for kicks and giggles, ask Bob Boone how it compares to Pudge’s when he was 23 years-old.

24.  With his new mechanics in mind, watch Ross Detwiler take the next step in his career (so far, so good this spring)

25.  Watch who gets the majority of our saves.

26.  Good weather, maybe highs in the 70s with plenty of sun, for Nats Fest on Wed., March 30.

27.  Want to watch the Mel Antonen, Tom Davis, Dave Johnson and Phil Wood pre pre-game show on MASN from 5-6:30pm weeknights. Also excited about Charlie and Dave on 106.7-WJFK FM. Good to be back on FM again!

28.  Multiple All-Stars for the Nationals for the first time since 2005 (Livan, Chad Cordero).

29.  With a small lead in hand, see who will pitch the 9th inning on Opening Day against the Braves.

30.  Can Collin Balester clone his Sept. 2010 performance and reproduce it in 2011?

31.  How many home runs will Bryce Harper hit in the minor leagues?

32.  See who Mike Rizzo and his talented network of scouts pluck with the 6th and 23rd-overall selections in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

33.  Excited to experience F.P. Santangelo on MASN 10 times in 10 days during a May road trip.

34.  Time (via a stopwatch) how long it takes our fans to fall in love with Jayson Werth and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Oh, and Todd Coffey and his sprint?

35.  Further good health and prosperity for Jesus Flores, who deserves both.

36.  Fewer trips to the mound for Steve McCatty as our starting pitchers consistently go 7 innings.

37.  Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond become the best and most athletic middle infield tandem in the NL. Heck, why stop there. Let’s say best in MLB.

38.  Adam LaRoche to be named as one of the sneaky-good signings of the 2010-11 offseason.

39.  Perhaps have a young opposing player swing twice when seeing a vintage Tyler Clippard changeup for the first time.

40.  With most of Taiwan watching, have Chien-Ming Wang make the first of his 20+ starts for us in May.

41.  Read about an opposing player like Chipper Jones, Chase Utley or David Wright lauding the consistent hustle and effort of your 2011 Washington Nationals.

42.  Require a calculator to tally the number of errorless games we string together in 2011.

43.  Watch to see how we grow as a franchise through the prism of social media.

44.  See if Nyjer Morgan can regain his 2009 Mojo.

45.  Watch Danny Espinosa homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

46.  Have Livan Hernandez rightfully claim his first Gold Glove.

47.  See Tom Gorzelanny make 30 starts and regain his status as a double digit-game winner.

48.  See winning records and postseason berths in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown, Auburn, Viera and the Dominican Republic.

49.  Be present as Stephen Strasburg pitches in mid-September, a la Jordan Zimmermann in Sept. 2010.

50.  Will Teddy win? I sure hope so! Maybe I’ll ask Todd Coffey if he can work with Teddy on the fine art of sprinting.

 

Again, please don’t hold back. Send in some of your own ideas.

Thanks so much for your time and continued enthusiasm for the Nationals.

17 more days until the opener…

 

I will be in touch again soon.

 

Curly W Live Welcomes Owner Mark D. Lerner

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

Greetings NatsTown from sunny and warm Viera, Fla., the Spring Training home of the Washington Nationals.

It would be impossible to describe the feeling you experience when you first arrive at Spring Training each February… the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the sound of a bat striking a baseball, the buzz you feel in the air as fans of all ages assemble to watch Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper driving balls over the fence during batting practice. Nothing compares to Spring Training, especially after a long, cold winter in Washington, DC.

Today, the Nationals open their Spring Training schedule with a matinee against the New York Mets. Just a quick trip down I-95 to Port St. Lucie, then we’ll get to hear the first “play ball” of the 2011 spring season. I am really looking forward to it.

For Nationals fans who weren’t able to escape to Florida to catch the opener, you’ll have the opportunity to follow along on nationals.com. Our spring broadcasts on TV and radio begin next week (speaking of radio… check nationals.com this morning for an exciting announcement that will positively impact our radio listeners beginning in 2011). Our first game on MASN is this Saturday against the New York Yankees in Tampa.

Since my wife, Judy, and I arrived in town on Saturday, I have had the opportunity to watch a few workouts and catch up with many of our players. I’ll share my initial impressions below:

* We were in town just a matter of minutes on Saturday afternoon, before we encountered three of our neighbors — Bryce Harper, Doug Slaten and Sean Burnett — at the apartment complex we will call home for the next few weeks.

Doug and Sean are two of the nicest guys in the game, and we are fortunate to have that pair of reliable southpaws in our bullpen.

Bryce also has a great personality and is mature beyond his years. I hadn’t seen him since he participated in the Florida Instructional League in October, and let me tell you… he has worked extremely hard over the last number of months to prepare for his first pro season. It looks as though he has gained significant muscle, which will surely help him as he navigates through his first professional baseball season. It is hard to believe he is just 18 years old. 

* I caught up yesterday morning with our General Manager Mike Rizzo over breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel (where else!) near Space Coast Stadium. He is very pleased with the way the first two weeks of camp have gone, noting a renewed spirit, work ethic and professionalism at workouts. And, he remarked that several of the veteran players he acquired this offseason are making an immediate impact in the clubhouse and on the field. We just have a great batch of players that Mike has imported and they seem so much more dedicated to playing the game right, working hard and enjoying themselves as a team or unit.

It does bode well for 2011…

* The first guy I run into as I pulled into the park was Stephen Strasburg. He looks terrific and it’s evident that he has been dedicated to his rehab and conditioning. He was long tossing 75 feet yesterday at practice.

* A very large crowd greeted the team at practice today. I ran into many of our fans who have come down from DC.  I love connecting with our fans, and this blog is one outlet that will afford me that opportunity. I encourage any fans that are planning a trip to Viera to catch some spring action, please stop by to say hello as we cheer on the Nats together.

*Sad news yesterday for all baseball fans,  as we heard about the passing of Hall of Famer and Dodger legend Duke Snider. The Nationals family send their deepest condolences to the Snider family.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks, as I plan to blog periodically (three-four times each week) to share my Spring Training experiences and thoughts with our dedicated fans in NatsTown.

Day 4 in Viera: Adam LaRoche Arrives

Hello everyone. We were glad to hear that things warmed up in/around DC today, someone said it got above 60 degrees. Well, it hit 83 today at the complex. Sunblock is mandatory, so if you come visit, please don’t forget your SPF 50.

My name is John Dever and I am your guest blogger for the next week or so. I am the PR Director for the Nationals and I will be drawing on the eyes and ears of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. Mike and Bill have been around for many years and have forged hundreds of relationships and watched thousands of ballgames. Collectively, the three of us are holding down the fort for Mark Lerner, who will inherit this blog on Monday, February 28. Mark is looking forward to resuming the blog experience he began during the 2010 Winter Meetings.

Here are some of our observations from today …

*Every morning, 31-32 pitchers begin their workout with stretching and a game of simple catch. One of the pairings the last two days has been Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya. Obviously most know that both are from Cuba, and some of our most ardent fans may have read that Maya was a bat boy on Hernandez’s Cuban Industrial League team back in the early 90′s. So they know each other well. What caught my eye today was that they begin their throwing sessions with one another by throwing a “regulation” softball for the first 10-15 tosses. Their theory is that this exercise helps them gain better command of the baseball when they do switch over. Knowing Hernandez’s well-established pinpoint control, it is hard to argue with the notion.

*Today we saw Maya, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Chad Gaudin and Sean Burnett, among others, debut with their bullpen sessions. Let’s just say, I cannot wait to see Maya in games next month.


Adam LaRoche introduced at Nats Park.JPG*Big arrival today among position players as Adam LaRoche rolled in with his nine-year-old son, Drake. LaRoche jumped right into the cage with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Nyjer Morgan. LaRoche looked refreshed and ready to go. Meanwhile, Drake will likely be hosting his own talk show within two to three years. He had a lot of people laughing all afternoon around the complex. He has quite the personality.

*When contemplating the future of Wilson Ramos, remember who he has been learning under. Pudge Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. Wilson told Mike Gazda today that he has had and continues to have a strong relationship with Mauer, and that his interaction with Pudge late last season was fantastic. Both players shared their experiences and knowledge freely and their encouragement toward Ramos did not go unnoticed. Who wants to bet that someday down the line Ramos will have a similar relationship with a young up-and-coming catcher? What comes around will undoubtedly go around.

*Little known fact: Sean Burnett is actually right-handed. Yes. That is no misprint. Sean does EVERYTHING (eat, drive, write) right-handed except pitch, bat and golf. Per Burnett, his theory is that he mimicked his left-handed father, Rich Burnett, his entire childhood. One of the interesting aspects of this discussion was that Sean says he can’t throw a football left-handed at all. He says he likely could not throw a football 10 feet. But he can hurl a football pretty well from the right side in case you were wondering.

*Book Club Note of the Day: Ross Detwiler is currently reading “When Men Win Glory,” the Pat Tillman story written by Jon Krakauer. Maybe we’ll have him file a book report for us next week.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more on the eve of the report date for position players.

30 Players in 30 Days: Sean Burnett


Sean Burnett in Atlanta.jpgA win-loss record of 1-7 doesn’t suggest excellence but Sean Burnett had an excellent 2010 campaign. He was arguably the best among all Washington relievers, despite ending the season with the aforementioned record.

In fact, coming into the last full week of the season, Burnett was winless.  “For him to have such a great year and not have a win, we were talking about that in the bullpen,” Drew Storen said. “We didn’t want to jinx him, but we were like, ‘He needs to get one,’” which finally happened on September 26 when Burnett pitched two hitless innings and recorded three strikeouts against the Braves. Of course, it wasn’t the first time Burnett had pitched extremely well during the season–it was simply the first time the performance resulted in a win. On 15 other occasions this season, Burnett pitched an inning or more without allowing a hit, and in 58 of his 73 appearances, he did not allow a run–proof that win-loss record can be highly deceiving.

Burnett looked as sharp as ever in 2010, striking out 8.86 batters every nine innings–the most in his Big League career, while walking only 2.86 batters every nine innings–the least in his Big League career. He also stranded more runners than ever before, leaving 81.4 percent on base. (For the record, he debuted for Pittsburgh in 2004 and has since pitched nearly four complete seasons in the Majors.)

Burnett was adamant against being tagged a left-handed specialist–he was drafted in 2000 as a starter and converted to a reliever in 2008, so being confined to limited innings against lefties only sounded like a further demotion. He worked hard in the offseason to strengthen his repertoire against righties and came out strong–so strong that right-handed batters had averages almost 100 points less (.182) than left-handed batters (.273) against him.

His pitching this season should cement him as next season’s top setup man. He may not be best suited as a closer, due to his pitch-to-contact style and a fastball that tops out in the low 90s. However–he could be great. He recorded three saves this year and has shown one doesn’t have to be considered ideal or fancy to get the job done.

“He’s not getting nearly the credit that he should,” Storen said. “A lot of times, it’s kind of boring watching him pitch. He just does well every time. He goes in there and throws good pitches. It’s not flashy. He does his job. That’s something that’s great about him. He’s kind of not well known. And he should be for what he’s doing for us this year.”

Full Clipp — Tyler Clippard


Tyler Clippard Inside Pitch Cover.jpgDon’t be fooled by Tyler Clippard’s glasses, baby face or warm-up song–the 1995 hit Peaches by the Presidents of the United States of America. It started as a joke and he was forced to keep it because he was pitching well.

There is strike one–a 92 mph fastball.

You can’t forget Clippard and hitters have a harder time figuring him out. Last season, lefties batted an anemic .122 (14-for-115) off of him. His stony stare makes you shake and his glasses let you know he means business.

Count it. Strike two–an 82 mph change-up.

Now he has you guessing. You are still trying to figure out who he is and you are already down 0-2. Good luck.

Don’t be fooled. Tyler Clippard is the real deal and that’s why you will remember him. Call it deception. Call it whatever you want. It doesn’t matter. Clippard is coming right after you regardless.

Deception is his look. His wrestling-weigh-in stare on the mound is everything he isn’t. His 25-year-old baby face off the mound without his glasses is as intimidating as a puppy. He grew up in Florida as a low stress, low key, laid back person who tries to get along with everyone. He started wearing the glasses last season because he couldn’t see the signs from the catcher.

“I don’t feel like the glasses are too intimidating,” Clippard said. “I feel like they are kind of dorky. But if they’re intimidating, that’s fine too.”

Deception is his pitch–the 92 mph fastball seems as fast as a rocket after he throws a change-up.

“His change-up is very good,” Pitching Coach Steve McCatty said. “It’s hard to stay on it. It looks like a fastball and then what he does so well is after he slows you down enough, he throws 91-92 mph. But when you have that kind of change-up, it makes the 91 mph fastball look like 98 mph.”

Deception is his delivery. It looks violent and fierce but he throws each pitch with purpose–not quite as peaceful as poetry–but it is close.

“His delivery is a little awkward and he hides the ball so well,” reliever Sean Burnett said. “You see his arms and legs just come at you with his glove… and then the ball jumps upon you, so you can’t pick it up and then all of a sudden it’s coming at you pretty clean.”

Deception is his style, but dominating has been his game. He has been a key contributor to the revamped bullpen–only Burnett and Clippard remain from 2009. He can be used in every situation: long relief, short relief, against lefties, in the eighth or to close the game. He struck out seven in 3.0 innings of work on April 10 against the Mets to pick up the victory. He is 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA (18.0 IP/ 1 ER) in 12 games.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest edition of Inside Pitch at Nationals Park during this homestand.

Bullpen continues to come up big


Tyler Clippard standing.JPGThe Nats 2010 bullpen is becoming a well-oiled machine. It is pretty easy to see they are having fun too. Just watch them warm up once.

Here is a brief recap of the bullpen pitchers warming up on Tuesday. The bullpen pitchers are a team within a team and they are relegated to the right field corner when they warm up, right next to the spot they occupy during the game.

They say no man is an island, but the bullpen pitchers are basically on an island. They are isolated from the rest of the team during the game so it only makes sense to do it during practice too.

They don’t have to worry about BP or taking ground balls, aside from the occasional PFP (pitcher field position) drills. Left alone, they have created other clever ways to warm up. On Tuesday, they pretended they were star NFL receivers and ran deep post-corner and fly routes to the corner of the imaginary end zone, catching high fly balls and always making sure their toes were inbounds.

The next drill was a little more practical than running routes. They simulated hitters. In this one instance: Tyler Clippard pitched, Brian Bruney caught, Sean Burnett batted with his glove and Matt Capps provided commentary and called balls and strikes.

Bruney didn’t have to move his glove once and Capps did his best strike three punch out after each pitch. 

“We’re just having a good time,” Burnett said. “But at the same time, when I am in the box, it lets him visualize the hitter. So, in other words, you’re having a good time, but you’re also working on things.”

Burnett never swung his glove; he knew he never had a chance. Then again, not many batters do.

“I could have got a hit off him because I knew what was coming,” Burnett said with a big smile. “But no, not otherwise. I would probably have a really hard time.”

Clippard then switched spots with Bruney and he quickly revealed why he is a pitcher and not a catcher.

Clippard has been lights outs so far this season. He struck out 7 batters in 3.0 innings against the Mets on April 10. He is 3-0 with a 0.77 ERA and leads NL relievers with 11.2 innings pitched.

You have to be a different breed to be a member of the bullpen. You have to be ready to pitch every day and you have to flip that so called “switch” like a light at times. It helps to have a comedian too–it keeps things loose while watching a game a mile from the action.

“We got a great group of guys,” Burnett said. “We are a bunch of guys that get along and like to have a good time. You’ve got to be a little different in the bullpen or else it gets boring down there. But guys like Tyler Walker and stuff keep it real loose and make us laugh and smile. We have a good time. I think you have to be a close group of guys that help each other out and then battle through things.”

One of the Nats main priorities entering the offseason was revamping the bullpen. They did just that and it has paid immediate dividends.

Last year, the bullpen was a ticking time bomb that seemed to explode every outing. Last April, the bullpen went 0-8 with a 5.40 ERA (73.1 IP/ 44 ER) and blew seven of the ten save opportunities, three of which were in consecutive games against the Marlins in the ninth inning.

This year it is a different story. The bullpen was bolstered during the offseason and only Clippard and Burnett remain from the 2009 season.

We have a veteran group of guys,” Burnett said. “We have guys that have been relievers for awhile and have Big League experience. We have guys who go in there and throw strikes. I think that’s the biggest thing–that guys are going in and throwing strikes.”

The bullpen has been worked vigorously at times as some of the Nationals starters have struggled to hit their spots. It has put them  into some interesting predicaments this season–pitching 9.0 innings on Sunday and 7.0 innings on Tuesday–but they have thus far been able to weather the storm.

The long outings have slightly inflated their ERA to eighth in the NL. They are 4-2 with 4.75 ERA (60.2 IP/ 32 ER) and 7-for-8 in save opportunities. The key stat is Matt Capps is 7-for-7 in save opportunities in the ninth.

Looked at a slightly different way–when the Nats are close, ahead or the starter pitched at least five innings–the bullpen is 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA (19.1 IP/ 4 ER) with 20 strikeouts and a .224 BAA.

The bullpen has come up big in big games, and that has been the difference between 8-7 and 4-11.

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: 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

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