Results tagged ‘ Willie Harris ’

30 Players in 30 Days: Willie Harris

There has been a trend in baseball to focus on defensive stats and there isn’t a shortage of numbers: Arm (Outfield Arm Above Average), DPR (Double Play Runs Above Average), RngR (Range Runs Above Average), ErrR (Error Runs Above Average), WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).


If you don’t know what they stand for or what they mean, that’s fine. It just means you have a life. We won’t waste your time trying to describe them but we will show you pictures of what they mean courtesy of Willie Harris.


Willie Harris DC 2.jpg
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Willie Harris loves diving.JPG
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30 Players in 30 Days: John Lannan

John Lannan in Atlanta.jpgIt may be a while until we know the full effect the 2010 season had on John Lannan but the initial prognosis is positive. For Lannan, the 2010 season was an emotional rollercoaster ride. It was a learning experience, the type of season where at times it felt like it was the end of the world and only in retrospect could he appreciate the lessons learned.

He started the season as the Nats’ Opening Day starter but never really pitched like one. He struggled with his control, mechanics and could never get his fastball to sink–the key to his previous success–going 2-5 with a 5.76 ERA with 35 walks in 14 starts. The lowest of his lows occurred on June 20 when he had a 10.38 ERA, allowed 38 base runners and lasted only 13 innings in three starts from June 9-20. He was demoted to Double-A Harrisburg on June 21. The team felt he should be sent to Harrisburg–not Triple-A Syracuse–because Lannan had history with Harrisburg Pitching Coach Randy Tomlin.

He worked with Tomlin to adjust his mechanics and alter his arm angle so he wouldn’t show his pitches as early in the delivery. He noticed a difference in the first start. He started to locate his fastball and felt confident throwing his curveball and slider. He stopped trying to be a power pitcher and started to just be John Lannan, the same groundball pitcher that got him to the Majors. He was recalled on August 1, revamped, revitalized and ready to pitch. He started to grow his hair longer and wore his socks low.

“They sent him down to the Minor Leagues and he went down there, persevered and faced a lot of adversity,” Willie Harris said. “He came back and he is a different person.”

He was a different pitcher too. He record three wins in his first four tries. Those three wins came after a no-decision and marked the first time Lannan has won three consecutive starts in his career. He won just two games in the first 14 contests he played prior to the Minor League stint.

“The main thing for me was going out there and being confident in my stuff and throw each pitch with a purpose,” Lannan said. “I was more sure of my stuff since I came back.”

He went 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA (68.1 IP/ 26 ER), 47 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 11 starts. He never pitched less than 5.0 innings and lasted at least 6.0 innings in seven of the starts.

“It was an experience that I wouldn’t take back,” Lannan said. “One thing I did learn was to take the positives from each day no matter how bad the day is. Just work on what you thought was positive and move forward.”

Inside Pitch Live with Willie Harris

Willie Harris spent some time prior to Saturday’s game in the PNC Diamond Club, fielding questions from fans and  moderator Dave Jageler for another installment of Inside Pitch Live:

inside pitch-willie harris.jpgHow do you approach pinch hitting and have so much success, as you did Friday night when you hit a home run as a pinch hitter?

My mindset is sort of like a leadoff hitter. I treat it like I’m leading off the game, even though it’s the eighth inning, or the seventh, or the ninth and I’m facing the closers and the setup man. I don’t think people really understand how tough that is. You’ve been sitting on the bench for eight innings and now you’re asked to go up and give a good at bat against closers, Broxtons and guys who throw 97, 98 miles an hour. but you know that comes with the territory. That’s my job and I take pride in it. I go out there and give it my best effort every time.

You’ve made several game-ending defensive plays over the years, especially against the New York Mets, you always seem to do it to. Of all the great catches you’ve made since you’ve been with us, is there one that stands out as a favorite?

Yes, it was the one at Shea Stadium. I think Jon Rauch was on the mound. Ryan Church hit a looping, lazy fly ball down the left field line. I had to run a long way and made a diving play. I think about that catch sometimes when I get down and out and it picks me back up and makes me believe in myself all over again. I think that’s the best one.

You had a great one earlier this season to save a game at the Mets. I went into the park the next day and my buddy who works in the Mets scoreboard room turns to me in the ninth inning and says, “I think we’re going to win it, as long as we don’t hit it to Willie Harris.” They know. You’re in their heads.

It feels good to get that type of respect around the game. The next day, Rod Barajas came up to me and told me, “Willie, David Wright told me to hit the ball anywhere except for left field.” That makes me feel good. It makes me feel good to know guys around the league know what type of outfielder I am. For the most part, it’s for my pitchers. I try to make plays for my pitchers because I know how hard it is to go out there and try to get a guy out, so I try to make it as easy as possible for our pitchers.

When you get on base, what are you and the first baseman talking about? What’s that exchange like?

For the most part, it’s, “How’ve you been doing?” “Hey Dave, how you doing, man? How’s the season been going for you?” That’s it.

Who are some of the talkative guys? It seems like the other team is always chatting up Dunn. Or Dunn’s chatting them up.

Yeah, Dunn’s a big time chatter. I think the guy around the league who really talks the most is Ryan Howard. He’s always referring to you as, “Hi, Mr. Harris,” or “Hi, Mr. Morgan,” or whoever the guy on first base is. Prince Fielder is pretty silent. You’re not going to get a lot of words out of Prince. He’s a lot bigger than I am, so I just go ahead and take my lead and leave him alone. For the most part, everybody’s pretty friendly.

If you could pick any position to play every day, which would it be?

Second base. I came up through the Minor Leagues as a second baseman, made it to the Big Leagues with the White Sox playing second base. I refer to it is second base is like staying at home and going to the outfield is like staying at a hotel. Second base is my natural position. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to play there this year. But we still have five weeks left. Who knows what may happen?

We all know you can hit the long ball, but when you have to put down the bunt, you’re very capable of that too. Have you thought about maybe training some of our pitchers on how you bunt?

No I haven’t thought about that. You know, bunting is something that people feel should be very easy. It’s not easy at all. You’ve got guys throwing 93 miles an hour sinkers, cutters, the ball’s moving all over the place. Granted, we all feel like the pitcher should get the bunt down, but if he doesn’t, don’t give up on him. Just try to understand what you’re asking the guy to do. It’s not as easy as it looks.

You are a very professional player, a role model for a lot of the younger guys. Your presence is probably very important to a young club. How do you work with the other guys to get them better?

I pick my spots. I know the younger guys. I know they look up to me. I’m not having the type of year that I would like to have personally, but I know that those younger guys look at me to see how I handle it. So that way, when they go through their struggles and their problems, they know how to handle it. You never get down on yourself. You always stay upbeat and you try to stay even keeled. I look at it as, I’m going to have more good days than bad days. Baseball is a game of failure. You go up to hit 10 times and you get three hits, you’re a star, even though you made seven outs. It’s a game of failure. So when things aren’t going so well, you have to remember it’s going to get better. I just pick my spots. I’ve had talks with Desmond. I’ve pulled him to the side and chewed him out a couple of times, Bernadina. I’ve had talks with those guys, so that when they do get to a point where they go on a 0-for-8 or 0-for-nine skid, they know how to handle it and it doesn’t wear them down mentally.

Who’s the toughest starting pitcher you’ve faced?

There’s a few. I don’t want to miss anybody. Chris Carpenter the other night was really good, Lincecum…Ubaldo Jimenez, there you go. He’s the toughest one of them all. Him and Strasburg and pretty similar actually–they both throw hard, they’re both big guys. I think Ubaldo Jimenez is the toughest pitcher I’ve faced this year.

Who have you had real success against? Not to say, “Hey, I want to hit against this guy,” because it may change, of course.

I’ve had success against Jair Jurrjens from the Braves. And he’s a really good pitcher. They’re all good pitchers. Some days you’re going to get him, some days he’s going to get you. You just have to keep going and keep grinding and keep battling out.

How much time do you spend watching video and prepping for games?

At the beginning of every series, when we’re playing a team that we haven’t played for awhile or a team that we haven’t played this year, all the hitters and the hitting coach and Jim Riggleman and the coaches, we have our meetings. We go over the pitchers. We go over how strong an outfielder’s arm is as opposed to another outfielder. We go over their lineup, who may bunt, who may hit and run. So we’re prepared. We do all the preparation work, but sometimes we go out onto the field and we just make too many mistakes.

We put the work in. People may say, “They need to work harder.” We make a lot of errors. We’ve got a lot of young guys. But at the same time, I don’t think we should be making mental errors. Errors are going to happen. It’s baseball. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make errors. But I think we can cut down on the mental errors and take some of that pressure off our pitchers and quit giving teams extra outs to work with. Good teams like the Cardinals are going to take advantage of that. We just have to narrow that down and put it into better perspective.

If you hadn’t been a baseball player, what would you have been?

Football! That was easy. I was going to Florida State to play wide receiver, believe it or not, as small as I am, but I was blazing fast back then. What happened was, I got drafted in baseball and I realized, Willie, you’re not very big. You have safeties in the NFL twice my size and twice as fast as I am, so I figured I better go try to hit this ball and leave that football alone. Thank God, everything worked out well for me. I’m healthy and I’ve had a decent career.

Capture the Caption… and win FREE tickets to game 1 of Battle of the Beltways

Capture the Caption: Submit your caption to or in the comments section for one or both of the photos below. The winning caption will receive TWO FREE TICKETS to tomorrow’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. 

Livan Hernandez triple vision 1.JPGThird-eyed blind.

Morgan and the guys jumping.JPGGuys…. Guys… wait for me.

Fly Willie … part 2

Willie Harris loves diving.JPGWe have chronicled
Willie Harris and his ability to fly… but we will show you one more time just in case you forgot.

Last night, he made and driving catch to rob Chris Coghlan of a hit (above). As if that wasn’t enough, Harris made an inning-ending catch with runners on first and second to keep the score 4-2 (below).

“Great plays there,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “That game could have gotten out of hand a little bit. He is a valuable guy to have, I tell you. You could put him all over the place. He gets good at-bats and makes it tough on opposing pitchers. Willie is a ballplayer. He is a grinder.”

Willie Harris loves diving 2.JPG

Nationals Players & First Ladies at Capital Area Food Bank

Gonzo, Harris and Nieves.JPGNationals Players Willie Harris, Alberto Gonzalez, Wil Nieves and their wives–The First Ladies–volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank yesterday. The players and First Ladies, along with members of the Nationals Communications and Community Relations staff, packed meals for the Capital Area Food Bank’s Weekend Bag program, a service that provides weekly bags of food for children who do not have access to school meals. At the Food Bank warehouse, the group was able to pack 640 bags to be delivered to community-based sites for distribution to area children.

Nieves and his wife, Yormarie, visited the Food Bank last year to pack meals for a similar program. Both were especially eager to return again this year to help out kids in need, as they are expecting their first child this summer.

“It’s surprising that most of the people that don’t have food are kids,” Nieves said. “I can’t imagine having my kid without food just for one day.”

Harris at the food shelf.jpgIn support of the Capital Area Food Bank’s efforts to end hunger in the DC Metro area, the Nationals are teaming up with them for the fifth consecutive year to host the Annual Food Drive at Nationals Park on May 22 and 23 when the Nationals take on the Baltimore Orioles. Fans may donate non-perishable food items and paper products (plates, cups, napkins, etc.) outside the Center Field Gate from the time gates open through the fourth inning. All items collected will benefit the Capital Area Food Bank and the 478,000-plus people they serve through 700 nonprofit partner agencies.

“We love what they do for the community here in Washington,” Nieves said. “It feels good that we just can help any way we can, just a little bit of our time, I know we’re going to make a difference.”

Nats look to fry the Fish in game one

Marlins (13-15):

1.    Chris Coghlan – LF

2.    Gaby Sanchez – 1B

3.    Hanley Ramirez – SS

4.    Jorge Cantu – 3B

5.    Dan Uggla – 2B

6.    John Baker – C

7.    Cody Ross – CF

8.    Brett Carroll – RF

9.    Chris Volstad – SP (2-2. 4.45 ERA)

*Florida suffered its first three-game sweep of the season when it fell to San Francisco last night, 6- 3. Florida did not get a hit until the sixth frame and was limited to five hits on the night.

*As a team, Florida is hitting .312 with runners on base–tops in the Major Leagues–and are the only NL team hitting over .300 with ducks on the pond.


 Nationals (15-13):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Willie Harris – RF

8.      Ian Desmond – SS

9.     Craig Stammen – SP (1-1. 6.75)

*Washington won its first walk-off of the season last night, thanks to 7.1 hitless innings by Scott Olsen and Willie Harris’ single to center field to end the night.

*Washington is now 4-1 in rubber games this season.

*In last night’s win over Atlanta, Ivan Rodriguez hit his first homer as a member of the Nationals, which was also, coincidentally, his first long ball at Nationals Park. Rodriguez has now homered in 34 different ballparks, and will attempt to add to that total this summer when Washington visits Citi Field, AT&T Park and Chase Field.


So close…. yet so far

Scott Olsen 10.JPGLess than three weeks after the Braves were no-hit by the Rockies, they seemed destined to sink into despair yet again.

Scott Olsen was dealing. After seven innings, the Braves were hitless and Olsen had extended his scoreless inning streak to 20. He took a no-hitter into the eighth and after Matt Diaz was called out looking with a full count it seemed like the Braves were going to be no-hit for the second time this season–Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter of the season against the Braves on April  17.

“I think if that would have happened,” Chipper Jones said, “you probably have to put us all on a suicide watch.”

Scott Olsen needed only five more outs and he would forever be remembered.

“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t thinking about it,” Olsen said about the potential no-hit bid. “I was thinking about it early. I thought about it in the fourth and fifth inning. But it’s one of those things that’s hard–real hard–to do.”

David Ross proved why it was so hard and made sure that didn’t happen. He singled to left on the second pitch, just past a leaping Ian Desmond. (Reaction below.)

Scott Olsen no-hitter broken up.JPGAs quickly as the no-hitter was lost, the game was tied 2-2 after Jason Heyward laced a two-run single to left off Tyler Clippard with the bases loaded.

How quickly the tide turned. The Braves had runners on the corner with one out. Clippard settled down and got Omar Infante to ground into a double play to end the eighth. But he found himself in trouble yet again in the ninth. The Braves loaded the bases and the man who broke up the no-hitter found himself at the plate once again. He wasn’t so lucky. Ross grounded into an inning ending double play.

Adam Kennedy drew a walk to lead off the ninth. Ryan Zimmerman doubled and the Braves intentionally walked Cristian Guzman to load the bases. With the infield in and zero outs, Willie “Walk-off” Harris ripped a single into center field to give the Nats their 15th win of the season. They didn’t win their 15th game last year until June 6 (they were 15-36 at that point in 2009).

It is a different year and you can sense it everywhere: in the clubhouse, in the stands and, of course, on the Metro. This game had everything any fan could ask for: a possible no-hitter, suspense late into the game, home runs, key double plays and a walk-off win.

Walk-off Willie Harris c.JPGHere are some memorable quotes as people waited for the Green line to Greenbelt.

“I ate at Ben’s Chili Bowl, got half drunk and watched our Nationals win. It was like a night in heaven.”

“That was one of the best games I have ever seen.”

“Talk about a heart attack inducing game.”

“The Nats would have lost this game last year. They are winning a lot of close games this season. Last year, they looked for ways to lose… this year they are finding ways to win.”

“Tyler Clippard for Cy Young.”

“Zimmerman looked like Air Jordan jumping out there… If only Scottie Pippen could have caught the ball.”

His buddy quickly responded, “Great basketball analogy at a baseball game.”

Five is the magic number and lineups

Apparently three is a magic number for someone–I don’t know who– but the Nationals magic number in the first 13 games has been five. As in, the Nats are 7-0 when their starting pitcher goes at least five innings. They are 0-6 when the starter goes less than five innings. They were 6-23 last season when the starting pitcher lasted less than 5.0 innings. It really isn’t mindboggling–the longer the starting pitcher pitches, the higher probability the team has of winning the game. It is as conventional as wisdom gets.

The 2010 season is still young but it will rest in the arms of the starting rotation–that probably is true for every MLB team. At 7-6, the Nats are off to their best start since 2005. They didn’t win their seventh game until May 4 last year. It took them 24 games. It took them 23 games to win seven in 2008 and 22 games in 2007.

Winning cures all ails. There is a different attitude in the clubhouse this season–they are finally having fun playing baseball. They are winning games they would have lost last season and coming back from games they would have given up on. You can debate all day if team chemistry creates winning or if winning creates chemistry but there is no question the Nats have chemistry in the clubhouse.

“We have more chemistry here. It’s just a different feeling,” Harris said. “If you believe, you just don’t know what could happen. We play nine innings of baseball, and the Nats are going to come at you for nine innings. That’s all there is to it. Our Manager Jim Riggleman demands it, and that’s how we play.”


Rockies (6-7):

1.      Ryan Spilborghs – LF

2.      Dexter Fowler – CF

3.      Todd Helton – 1B

4.      Troy Tulowitzki – SS

5.      Brad Hawpe – RF

6.      Melvin Mora – 2B

7.      Miguel Olivo – C

8.      Ian Stewart – 3B

9.      Jorge De La Rosa – SP (1-1, 2.77 ERA)

*Troy Tulowitzki leads all National League shortstops with .986 fielding pct and his 118.2 innings are the most played at the position in the NL, and he leads all NL shortstops in double plays (12), total chances (74) and putouts (39). And by the way, he has not made an error since Opening Day, April 5.


Nationals (7-6):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Cristian Guzman – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF

6.      Pudge Rodriguez – C

7.      Justin Maxwell – RF

8.      Ian Desmond – SS

9.      Scott Olsen – SP (0-0, 6.35 ERA)

*SITUATIONAL HITTING: Right from Elias Sport Bureau…Willie Harris’ three-run homer in the second inning put the Nationals on course for a 5-2 victory over the Rockies–and if you have been paying close attention to the Nationals early this season, you should not have been surprised. Washington has been getting big hits at opportune times, producing an NL-leading .353 batting average (24-for-68) with at least two runners on base. Ivan Rodriguez is 6-for-10 in those situations, including a hit on Monday night.

Fly Willie… FLY

Willie Harris DC 1.jpg

 There has been a trend in baseball to focus on defensive stats and there isn’t a shortage of numbers: Arm (Outfield Arm Above Average), DPR (Double Play Runs Above Average), RngR (Range Runs Above Average), ErrR (Error Runs Above Average), WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).

If you don’t know what they stand for or what they mean, that’s fine. It just means you have a life. We won’t waste your time trying to describe them.

The only stat you need to know is: game saver. As in… Willie Harris is a game saver. He saved the game on Saturday with a sensational diving catch and it wasn’t the first time. It was as good as a walk-off home run. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Harris went airborne to rob Rod Barajas of a game winning hit, leaving the Nats celebrating and Mets fans on their feet with nothing to cheer about.

“He is so good, you got the feeling he is going to catch it,” Barajas said.

“I said, ‘Willie, you have to catch this ball. At least give it your best effort,'” said Harris, speaking in third person as if he wanted to impress Ricky Henderson. “If the ball falls in front of me, it was the game or at least tied and we have a play at the plate. It was pretty much a gamble. Fortunately, I came up with it and made the play.”

It was the third great catch Harris has made against the Mets since joining the Nationals. He also made a game saving catch when he robbed a home run on August 9, 2007 against the Mets when he played for the Braves.

Harris has moved around the baseball diamond with the Nats–playing every position except catcher and first base.

“You know Willie is a good player,” Jim Riggleman said. “Willie can go a lot of places on the field, he is a good hitter and he is fearless.”

Here are a few fearless defensive plays Willie has made… or at least looked good trying to make. We can’t confirm the ball ended up in his glove but we would just like to assume it did. I wouldn’t bet against it. Just like I wouldn’t bet against his love of flying.


Willie Harris DC 6.jpg
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