Who Has Heard of Daniel Norris?

Norris (a pitcher) is the Toronto Blue Jays number one prospect.  His story is pretty unique!  While he has a fastball that can hit 96 miles-per-hour, his living style is a bit unusual for a hot pro athlete who signed for a $2 million signing bonus.

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When he heaves the ballpark he heads for his 1978 VW camper-van.  He lives in it and cooks his meals over a gas-fired backpackers portable stove.    At night he parks it in a Walmart lot next to the dumpsters.

Check out the link below for the whole story:)

http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12420393/top-blue-jays-prospect-daniel-norris-lives-own-code

Will the Real Fister Show Up?

Doug Fister is starting tonight; it will be great to see him back on the hill!

But I have been concerned about him since the start of the 2015 season; his fastball has been sitting about 83-84mph, but NO ONE associated with the team has been commenting on that!  That is strange and has me worried that his best days may be behind him, or that he has an injury that the team wants to keep quiet about.  His “normal” fastball has been 88-90mph throughout his career.  A fastball of 83-84 just gives major-league hitters too much time to barrell one up:)

I hope Doug is back to his “old” form and speed.

His Name is Joe, Joe Ross

Today Ross started his second game on the mound since being called up from AA-Harrisburg.  He was spectacular, pitching 8 dominant innings against the good-hitting Brewers of Milwaukee.  He even set a new Nationals record for rookie pitchers—facing 51 batters before walking anyone!  Ross showed amazing poise and self-confidence while pounding the strike-zone.  He was still throwing 93-94 mile an hour fastballs in the 8th inning.  The Nats may have to figure out a way to keep him after Strass and Fister return to the starting rotation.

Giant’s Chris Heston Throws No-hitter

Whenever a rookie pitcher throws a no-no it is something very special!  A former colleague, neighbor and friend (retired Ambassador Maurice Parker) sent me this a couple of days ago:

“I’ve been watching this kid, Chris Heston, all year and his pitching has been inconsistent. The Giants brought him up from the minors, due to Matt Cain’s ongoing assignment to the DL. He had very big shoes to fill, but is starting to fill them just fine! He pitched a masterful game on Tuesday night. I also have to give Buster Posey a lot of credit for guiding him through it. This is the fourth No/No Buster has caught in the past four years! Buster and Chris Heston really synchronized their actions out there on the field. One incredible aspect of the game was that the Giants were playing the First Place METS in New York. The other three No Hitters that Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum pitched in the past few years were against the pitiful Astros and Padres. Thus, Heston’s no hitter is quite special. Let’s hope he can keep it up!

The local SF Radio announcers who interviewed Heston after the game suggested that he go into the locker room and tell Madison Bumgardner (Mr. World Series MVP) that he would be happy to show him how to throw a no hitter. Well, the kid seemed afraid to do so. Can you imagine what Mad Bum would have done to him????? If Heston can become more consistent, this could turn out to be a very good year.”

Keep your eyes on the Giants.  This could be their chance to show us they can win it all in an odd-numbered year:)

Maryland vs Virginia–Today!

Yep, it is happening like it did last year.  Today at 4pm UVa plays UMd in the NCAA playoffs.  Virginia was victorious last year, and they went all the way to the final game in Omaha.  Both teams have had up-and-down seasons, but appear to be peaking at the right time now.  Starting pitchers are Mike Shawaryn (13-2) for Maryland and Connor Jones (6-2) for Virginia.

I would have to say Maryland appears likely to go farther than UVa this year.  Both knocked off higher rated teams recently to get to today’s game.  And Virginia lost some of their best players from last year.  The best of three tournament will begin today on the U.Va. home field.

Clip to the Rescue?

Most of you likely saw this in today’s Post already, but any mention of Tyler Clippard returning to the Nats “pen” calls for at least a brief comment:)  After the bull-pen melt-down in Cincy, which included the first bad outing by Clip’s replacement Casey Janssen, most Nats fans are concerned, to say the least.  Some shuffling of the “deck” has already occurrred.  The article pointed out that if Oakland doesn’t start winning more games soon, they may be “sellers” at the July 31 trade deadline.  And given that the Athletics have a history of many trades with Washington, it would not surprise many if Clippard returns to the Nats come July 31.

I heard talk of the following on MLB talk radio this morning:  Wilson Ramos mentioned in an interview with 106.7 “The fan” radio that before the last game in Cincy (in which Joey Votto was hit by a pitch from Tanner Roark) the Nats had discussed exacting some retribution for the Reds pitchers hitting Gio twice and Bryce once in the previous two games.  I hope this doesn’t result in a suspension or fine for the Nationals.

The Inside Scoop on Strassburg’s Struggles

I  just read a very detailed analysis of Stephen’s problems this year (by Dan Rozenson in Baseball Prospectus)..  It boils down to the fact the he has not been able to throw his off-speed pitches (curve and change-up) where he wants them.  Up until this year he has been able to do that, and that keeps hitters guessing and off-balance.  This year when he needs a strike he has been going to his fastball a lot more because he has to.  That is like giving candy to your 6 year old:).  All major League hitters can hit a fastball or they would not be in the major leagues.

The ability to locate pitches is essential to be successful as a pitcher.  And to do that consistently requires a tough mental makeup—call it “grit” or “determination”.   If you are not sure what that looks like, watch Max Scherzer pitch for 2 minutes:)

Those of you who have read a lot of my blog-posts know I have never been optimistic about Strassburg’s chances of having a successful career.  I now think he has already peaked and is on the downhill side of a short career in the major leagues.  This is a very tough pill to swallow for the Nats braintrust I’m sure.

An October Preview?

I’m still savoring the just-completed series with the Cubbies!  I would not be surprised if both teams meet in October; the Cubs have improved A LOT and they are a fun team to watch, with so many young studs:)  Kris Bryant grew up playing with Bryce Harper as a kid in Las Vegas and it was fun watching the 2 of them hugging in the outfield before one game and bantering back and forth during the games.  Each game was a nail-biter and I think only 11 runs (total for BOTH teams) were scored in the entire series!

We got to see what a gem Mike Rizzo found in Casey Jansen.  He pitches like a combination of Scherzer and Fister (in-your-face aggression, only high 80s speed and good control).  And the spectacular way he fielded Dexter Fowler’s surprise bunt and threw him out at 1B was jaw-dropping. He may make us do the unthinkable and forget Tyler Clippard!

The Nats bullpen (I’ve said this before) is jelling and Mgr Matt Williams (and “Cat” too) deserves a lot of the credit for learning how to use every one of the guys from Treinen to Storen.

 

 

Nats Notes

A footnote regarding my last article:  Boz has a great article on Stephen Strassburg in today’s Wash. Post.

Harper has more HRs in the month of May than two TEAMS:  the Phillies and Braves!

Max Scherzer’s own batting average (.200) is higher than that of all the hitters he has faced thus far in 2015 (.199).  I don’t think many pitchers can say that; maybe only Bumgarner.

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.