Results tagged ‘ Texas Rangers ’
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Our list continues with veteran utilityman Mark DeRosa.
Statistics can tell us a lot in baseball, perhaps more so than in any other sport. Of the American “Big Four,” it is certainly the game that relies most heavily upon the numbers, over a large sample size, to determine success or failure, at least in the regular season. However, some players carry value in ways that are not generally quantifiable, bringing knowledge and expertise or even setting the tone of a clubhouse in a way that makes the players around them better. Mark DeRosa is one of those players.
A 15-year Major League veteran, DeRosa enjoyed his greatest success over a three-year span from 2006-08, playing for the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs. He carried a .291/.368/.453 line while playing every position outside of the battery, providing a valuable, interchangeable piece for his managers. While his production on the field hasn’t reached those levels since a pair of surgeries on his wrist, he was still the top target on Davey Johnson’s offseason wish list heading into Spring Training in 2012.
Why DeRosa? He was on Johnson’s World Baseball Classic squad back in 2009, and left an indelible mark on the manager. Back in Spring Training, it was DeRosa – not a fellow hurler, or pitching coach Steve McCatty – who pulled Gio Gonzalez aside after a rough inning to make him aware of a mechanical flaw in the lefty’s delivery. Gonzalez would not allow another run the rest of the afternoon. Before Game 4 of the NLDS, it was DeRosa who spoke to the team, ad-libbing a colorful interpretation of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous The Man In The Arena speech. Johnson acknowledged his veteran utility man’s importance in that afternoon’s press conference.
“DeRosa’s been kind of a spokesperson the guys have looked up to,” Johnson said. “He’s been in [postseason] situations. He’s a real good baseball man.”
DeRosa is a free agent heading into 2013, and is, as of yet, unsure if he will return for another season. After the end of the season, he shared his thoughts on his uncertain future.
“I’m kind of in a weird state,” he told reporters. “I don’t know if this is the last time I put on a uniform. I don’t know if I’m okay with that yet. We’ll see. I’ll go home and listen.”
Whenever DeRosa’s playing days are done, it would not be surprising to see him transition into another side of the game, whether as a manager or broadcaster. An Ivy Leaguer (he was a two-sport star at the University of Pennsylvania), his intelligent, charismatic, witty delivery seems tailor-made to fill either the long summer nights in the booth or the ears of the next generation of players from the end of the dugout.
Washington Nationals (89-56) vs. Atlanta Braves (83-63)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (19-7, 2.93) vs. LHP Mike Minor (8-10, 4.42)
Gio Gonzalez has a chance to become the first 20-game winner in the Major Leagues this season and the first ever in Nationals history as Washington looks to salvage the finale of their three-game set in Atlanta and head home with a winning road trip. The game is being televised nationally for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, with first pitch at 8:05 p.m.
1. Werth RF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Espinosa 2B
7. Moore LF
8. Suzuki C
9. Gonzalez LHP
VIEW FROM THE TOP
The Nationals own MLB’s best winning percentage at .614 thanks in part to a 40-22 (.645) mark since the All-Star break. Washington currently owns 2.5- and 3.0-game leads over the Reds and Rangers, respectively, in the race for the best record in Major League Baseball. The Nationals have either led the NL East or shared the top spot for 149 of the season’s 159 days. Only the Rangers (156) have enjoyed more days atop of their division in ‘12.
KEEPING SCORE ON THE SEASON
The Nationals currently pace MLB in run differential. The top 3: Washington (+132), Texas (+122), New York (AL) (+95). Washington has also allowed the fewest runs (520) in MLB.
Nineteen year-old Bryce Harper’s 19 homers hit as a teen are tied for second on the all-time list with Hall-of-Famer Mel Ott. Only a teenaged Tony Conigliaro (24) hit more. Harper turns 20 on October 16.
On a night in which the thermometer read 77 degrees at a 7:07 p.m. first pitch with number 37 on the mound for the Nationals, perhaps it seemed inevitable that Washington was on its way to its 77th victory, opening up a season-high seven-game lead over the division-rival Braves. Stephen Strasburg reduced a potent Braves lineup to a collection of swinging and looking strikes, including a breaking ball so sharp it sent Martin Prado, a good breaking-ball hitter, lurching backwards as it spun back across the plate.
But Tuesday night’s affair was about more than just Strasburg. Just as he had done the night before, Ian Desmond blasted a home run over the visitor’s bullpen in left field, to nearly the exact same spot. Later, Jesus Flores – who replaced Kurt Suzuki as the starter specifically due to his history of success against Braves starter Paul Maholm – drove a game-defining, three-run shot into the planters just over the left field wall. It was Flores’ first home run since June 29 at Turner Field in Atlanta in a game the Nats would win 5-4, and his first at Nationals Park since June 2, when he broke a scoreless tie with a blast off Brandon Beachy and, yes, the Braves. The catcher has hit just four home runs this season, but the last three have all come against Washington’s closest division rival and have all been a crucial factor in the outcome.
Amazingly, with Desmond and Flores both going deep in their victory Tuesday night, the Nationals have now won 20 straight games in which they have homered. That little nugget reminded us of a conversation we had with MLB Network’s Peter Gammons back in Spring Training. When we spoke with Gammons in the press box in Viera, we asked him of what team in recent memory these 2012 Nats reminded him. We expected an answer like the 2008 Rays or the 2010 Giants, clubs led by dominant starting pitching that could grind out a tight game every night. His answer surprised us.
“I would say Texas,” he said. Those Texas Rangers? The ones who could sneak up and lay a six-run inning on you at any time? The ones who had been to the past two World Series?
“Their pitching is very, very good,” he continued. “It’s young and it’s inexperienced. But they’ve got a lot of guys who can hit the ball eight miles, just like the Nationals do.”
Now, here in late August, with the Nationals lineup at last as healthy as it has been all year long, we finally understand. Washington now leads the National League in home run differential, having blasted 135 while surrendering just 95 (+39). That differential is 10 better than the St. Louis Cardinals, who own the league’s best overall offense. Considering the Nationals rash of injuries and games missed by middle-of-the-lineup bats this year, it’s an even more impressive statistic.
With those power bats back in the lineup, Gammons’ analysis makes a lot more sense. Of course, we’ll still take some credit for our own comparisons. After all, the last team to win 20 straight games in which they homered? The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.