The Time Has come!

Stephen Strassburg no longers fits in the Nats rotation.  Tanner Roark does.  I wrote about trading him last year; it didn’t happen.  When the team acquired Scherzer, that was another good time to unload Strass.  When Stephen fails twice to back up plays, something we all learn in High School, that’s another sign.  But the clearest signs are what we all see with his body-language and his mechanics when he is on the mound.  This year  Strass looks the “least comfortable” I have ever seen him.

The easiest move would be to send him to Syracuse, take the pressure off him and see if he can regain some “will to succeed.”  Right now he is a lost soul.  Honestly, I think trying to trade him could be difficult.

If the Nats are serious about getting to the post-season, this problem needs to be addressed NOW.

Cubs Upstage Bears

The Chicago Cubs, with a new manager and a great front office, are finally re-joining major-league baseball:)  Joe Maddon, the new manager, showed his stuff while driving Tampa Bay to the post-season a few years ago.  He appears to being working his entertaining magic in Chicago this year!  He has the Cubbies gaining on the front-running St. Louis Cardinals.  The team features tons of young talent full of swagger and two excellent aces on the mound (Jeff Samardzija and John Lester).

Note (posted after the above was published):  I realize I made a big mistake above saying Jeff Samardzija is now pitching for the Cubbies:)  He used to pitch for them, but now is across town with the White Sox!  My only excuse for such a screw-up is I wrote the article at around 6am this morning after only one cup of Joe, and it usually takes me three cups to really get rolling!

So at present Lester is the ace of the pitching staff and Jason Hammell and Jake Arrietta are the other mainstays of the staff.  I must add here that i listen to the MLB channel on XM-radio a lot and i have heard some talk (it may just be speculation) about Samardzija returning to the Cubs after this season ends.

With one more quality pitcher (Cole Hammels?) and one more young stud from their AAA team (I forget the guy’s name) before the end of July, the Cubs could find themselves still playing ball after October 1.

Stay tuned!

Last Minute Ticket to Paradise!

A friend called me about 3pm yesterday to say he had a spare ticket to the game last night.  Luckily I took it!  I watched maybe the best game I have seen ever at Nats Park.

The big one was RZimm’s walk-off homer.  But Spann made an incredible catch on a tailing line-drive in right center.  When I saw it live i was impressed, but when I watched the replay several times it dawned on me (and I’ve been playing outfield for many years) how difficult a catch I had witnessed.  He had to catch it back-handed as it tailed towards him.  If he had dived for it he would have missed it.

And then we got to see Wilmer Difo’s first ever big-league at bat—a sharp single.  he had just been called up from AA (not AAA!).  What impressed me more than the hit though, was how nervous he made the Yankees once they saw him dancing way off first-base:)

And then the Nats bull-pen out-pitched the Yankees pen (a VERY good one).  Closer Miller had not surrendered a run all year!

And then I learned RZimm has 10–count em—walk-off homers.  That has him in rare company (Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Jim Thome).  and Zimm is only 30.

Note:  I left out the following:  Drew Storen striking out A-Rod in a key 9th inning situation was lovely.  And then later learning that since August of 2013 Storen has the third best stats of any reliever in baseball!

 

Curve-ball Nightmares

Yesterday a friend pitching for the opposing team struck me out on a nasty curve!  Not the first time for that, but over the years I’ve got my base-hits off curves; in fact my best hit yesterday was a sharp RBI line-drive up the middle off a curve!

OK, on the the real story:  Bryce Harper.  His OPS (on-base average plus slugging) is on a par with that of Barry Bonds in 2004, possibly the best ever.  1.206 is a crazy OPS for a whole season; it will be fun watching Bryce try to maintain this.

I looked at about 15 offensive stats and Harper is among the top 4 in most of them, for all of MLB.  Many are talking a lot about Giancarlo Stanton this year, but as good as he is, Bryce is better thus far.

It is noteworthy that Harper has publically credited his manager Matt Williams with helping him get to this level.  He says Williams helped quiet down his swing, keep his head still and stop chasing pitches out of the strike-zone.

Sleep-deprived but Happy!

I really thought the Nats would lose yesterday’s last game with the D’backs but Mikey came through:)  And the game helped us all try to stop obsessing about Strassburg.

I have thought for a long time that the team should cut their losses and deal “Sensitive Stephen.”  He is the biggest “head case” I’ve seen in the last 70 years or so.  His mechanics are off and he’s so fixated on that he is spending too much time (in the middle of games) thinking about it rather than just pitching.

I hope Jay-Dub is finally moving his batting towards his personal comfort zone.  He had some good swings yesterday.

The nats will have more trouble in San Diego that they did in Phoenix:)

Mighty Girl History

Here’s a great story for you jaded baseball buffs!

Jackie Mitchell, pitcher for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a minor league baseball team, struck out baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during an exhibition game. Born in 1912, Mitchell showed a talent for baseball from a young age. Her next door neighbor, future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dazzy Vance, taught her how to pitch as a girl, including his special “dr…op ball” pitch.

At 17, Mitchell joined a women’s team, attended baseball school in Atlanta, and was soon offered a contract by the Chattanooga Lookout for the 1931 season — one of the first professional baseball contracts given to a woman. It was during this season that Mitchell became famous for striking out two of the greatest baseball players in history Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, pictured with her below. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the baseball commissioner voided her contract, declaring the game “too strenuous” for women. Jackie Mitchell continued to play professionally with traveling teams until her retirement from the sport in 1937.

There are two wonderful books for young readers about Mitchell’s fascinating story: “Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen,” a picture book for 4 to 8 (http://www.amightygirl.com/mighty-jackie-the-strike-out-queen) and an early chapter book “The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth” for 6 to 8 (http://www.amightygirl.com/the-girl-who-struck-out-babe-ruth).

 

The Much Maligned Bull-pen is Coming Together!

They lost the two most dependable relievers from last year:  Clip and Stammen, so the pen took much of April to sort out new roles.  Add to that the team’s bringing in 5 guys who had never thrown a pitch in the majors!

Last night, after Strass left the game after only 3 innings, the pen threw 6 shut-out innings.  Sammy Solis efficiently breezed through 3 innings while allowing only one batter to reach base.  Whatever pitch he throws seems to miss bats with regularity.

Thornton, Barrett and Treinen completed the game with no runners crossing home-plate.  Thornton does seem to be having some command issues, but has still been pretty effective.

Drew Storen, since August of 2013, has simply been the BEST relief pitcher in the National League!  See Boswell’s article in today’s POST.

 

Amazing!

Scoring 26 runs in two games is just what  the Nats needed to regain a bit of confidence with a bat in their hands.  And the 6,7,8, and 9 hitters in the order have been producing a big chunk of those runs.  Jordan Zimmermann’s three-run hit was the biggest blast last night.  And it was sweet to see Dan Uggla win the Tuesday game with his 9th inning three-run four-bagger:)

Hopefully these two games will help the team put their April funk behind them for good.

Note:  After I published the above short article I saw Tom Boswell’s excellent piece in the Post.  He makes the connection between Freudian theories on depression and the old sports adage “don’t wake up teams in a funk!”  This is a reference to the dirty slide into Yunel Escober in Tuesday night’s game by Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons that injured the Nats third-baseman.  This appeared to light a spark in the Nats dugout that might have been what got their offense charging back from a 9-1 deficit!

Hockey Anybody?

Before 2012, when the Nats first got to the post-season, i had been watching more hockey than baseball.  Tonight, after the Nats fourth error, I switched to the Capitals game seven showdown with the Islanders.  Just after that the caps scored the winning goal, so they are going to the next round of playoffs.

The Nationals are now playing their worst baseball since 2011.  And something is not right with Doug Fister, and apparently this goes all the way back to the start of Spring Training.  His normal fastball used to be at 88-91 mph.  Now it is around 85 mph.  The offense, defense and bull-pen are mediocre this year.