SILVER LINING STILL THERE
[May 9th] -- Hi y'all (my mother was from Texas -- somethings just never leave you).
I miss posting 10 to 15 times a week like I did the first 2 + years of The Beltway Boys. It was fun being able to write a 10 paragraph story on the way "Nationals" was written across the front of the home jersey. To those of you who continue to email and ask, I am feeling better, and one day - soon I hope - I'll be able to return to daily blogging. Thank you so much for sticking with me.
With the semester finished (and one more to go to finally get that elusive degree), I have taken a summer job at the local Convergys call center here in Pocatello. It's a great job, really. Our facility takes virtually all of the incoming calls from Directv customers. It's a sit-down job, which doesn't stress my heart any more than it already is. But the best part is I get to work from home. They provide a computer here at my house; I just go into my den, close the door and take calls. The pay isn't bad and Directv provides the equipment and the programming for free. Every channel that a customer can get I get at no cost (it's the $100 package) plus I get all the NFL and MLB games as well. So while I'm talking to those of you with Directv, I'm surfing the computer with my left hand while changing the tv channel with my right.
Sometimes, the right situation does come along in life when you need it most.
But lets talk about baseball ...
Heading into tonight's game, the Nationals are 9-25 and are showing no signs of turning their season around. I think we all expected something like this to occur, but not in the way things have played out. It was the pitching, and not the offense, that was going to doom the Nationals this year. Thus far, the pitching has been okay bordering on not-to-bad. The team's ERA heading into tonight's game against the Marlins stands at 4.67, good for 23rd in the league, but better than seven teams, including the Yankees, the Mariners and the Blue Jays. Over the last 30 days, when part of that horrid first week is discounted, the Nationals' ERA is 4.18, 18th best in the major leagues. I think any of us would have taken a "middle-of-the-pack" ERA last fall.
While the pitching has been a pleasant surprise, the offense has been hard to understand. Only the Chicago White Sox has a worse team batting average than the Nationals' .227, and no one has fewer home runs, RBI's and runs scored. Only the White Sox and Pirates have a worse on-base percentage.
That said, let not your heart be troubled Nationals' fans. Brian Schneider, Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns will hit much better the second half of the season, and Nick Johnson will add another badly needed professional bat by the end of next month. If Ryan Church and Felipe Lopez continue to hit well, and if Manny Acta wises up and puts Ronnie Belliard back in the starting lineup, the team will hit well enough to win some games. If Acta plays his eight best hitters, and if the starting pitching remains healthy, the Nationals could win 35-37 wins during the second half of the season.
Whether or not the Nats have a "historically" bad year will depend on what they do from now until the All-Star break. If we assume 35 wins after the break (giving them a second half record of 35-46), the Nationals will have 44 wins in the books with 47 games left to play. If they play .500 ball from now until July, they'll end the year with 67 victories, a number similar to last year's 71 win season. But they aren't going to win half their games over the next three months; you know it and I know it. 19 wins are more likely, which would give the Nationals a final record of 63-99.
So there you have it. If the Nationals' pitching staff continues to be "okay," and if the team's bats start to hit like they are capable by the All-Star game, the team might, just might, avert a 100 loss season. That said they could just as easily lose 107 games.
It's all up to the offense right now.
There is also lots of talk about Stan Kasten and Mark Lerner promising more money for free agents next year. I believe them. My guess is the Nationals will end up with two starting pitchers and a starting position player to enhance the new park experience in 2008. Add a powerful center-fielder and two "15 win" type starters, and the Nationals could have easily have a winning team in 2008.
Don't sell the Lerner's short. They are very smart and the know exactly what they are doing. Remember how painful this season has been, and will be, because I doubt we'll ever seen anything like it again for many years to come.
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