[April 9th] -- I know that the opening week of the 2007 season isn't exactly the most opportune time to go dark for a blogger, but hey - you do the best you can. I can control many things, but my health isn't one of them. I'll do my best until things settle down. Hopefully, my best will be good enough for my readers.
The first week of games hold no real surprises, and really, it's just too small a sample to get any real feel for how bad this year is going to be. And baseball is a game of streaks, both good and bad. Just like the first hour of an election night, the "returns" aren't telling us much. Felipe Lopez, for example, couldn't buy a hit this spring, and is nonetheless batting .300 after six games. Most of us were worried that Ryan Church's poor showing in Viera might have brought about a 2006 redux for the outfielder, yet he's been the team's most productive hitter thus far.
There have been surprises, however. I believed that Brian Schneider would - finally - start the season strong and hit well all year. Sadly, his bat has been the deadest thus far. And although it's not uncommon for a rookie fresh out of 'AA' to look so lost during his first week in the major leagues, I didn't think Casto would have had this much difficulty early on.
And the starting pitching cannot continue being this bad - I mean, the law of averages will once again bring us a starting staff that can get outs, especially in the first inning. I'm not worried about Matt Chico, as rookie pitchers get bombed one day, then look all-world the next. And although Jerome Williams has an ERA of 6.00, he was sharp in all but one inning pitched. I think he'll be fine too. Jason Bergman isn't a concern because he's just a place holder until Jason Simontacchi returns from the DL. No, the problem the rotation has lies at the top: John Patterson. There were whispers all spring that his fastball was missing 2-3 mph. Sure enough, the great preponderance of his fastballs during his first two starts were clocked in the 87-89 mph range, too slow for Patterson to succeed at the major league level. I hope he regains his velocity - and I think he will - but until he does, his 9.35 isn't going to change all that much.
Around the minors: The Columbus Clippers have hit only one homer in three games, Larry Broadway's first of the year ... Who is Robin Jennings and why is he in Harrisburg? Jennings, who is 35, and hasn't played (in America at least) in four years, is getting a lot of playing time at first and in the outfield. Josh Whitesell, who hit 19 homers last year for Harrisburg, has only played in one of the Senators' first three games ... Mike Hinckley, who used to be the team's top minor league stud, got hammered in his first start in 'AA' ... Ian Desmond, who we all figured to be a future star after his outstanding spring in 2005, is 1-10 with 3 strikeouts thus far in Potomac ... Chris Marrero is looking very good in his first full year as a professional. Marrero is batting .412 with a .941 OPS.
A 1-6 record doesn't look good, but team's with payrolls in the mid $30 million dollar range aren't expected to play much better than that. Imagine how the Phillies' fans must feel right now, however. With a payroll in the $100 million dollar range, they are 1-5, just a half-game ahead of the Nationals.
I'm not going to change my 71-75 win prediction based on a (very) bad week. And the good news is that no matter what happens from here on out, the Nationals are going to play better than they did this first week.