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SHELL SHOCK

[August 26th] -- Were this to have been Joel Hanrahan's last game of 2007, some baseball statistician a hundred years from now would probably look at his 5.90 ERA and thought, "Geez, that guy had a bad year."

Nope. Just one bad game.

Hanrahan, who had pitched well in his stay with the Nationals, was bitten by the same bug that has bothered him his entire professional career. Hanrahan walked five men in two innings while looking bewildered on the mound; this from a man who entered the game with a 3.42 ERA.

The only thing that has kept Hanrahan - who has great stuff - from success at the major league level has been in his control. He's averaged nearly 4.5 walks per 9 innings during his minor league career and is now allowing nearly six walks per 9 innings this year. Hanrahan allows only 1 hit per 9 innings, a tremendous figure, a figure that gets skewered with all those walks.

One thing we can be sure of: Joel Hanrahan will continue to have control problems throughout his career, and unless he keeps his hits per 9 innings well below 1 per inning, he's never going to have a chance to remain in the rotation. And that's such a shame. He looks like a pitcher. When he throws strikes, he has the makeup of a #2-3 starter. But when he can't find the plate, bad things happen.

Like today.

That said, I have confidence in Hanrahan. He is a 14-12, 4.10 kind of pitcher. He'll look like Cy Young when he wins and Cy Vance when he looses (that make escape those of you not old enough to remember the Carter Administration).

It's unfortunate that one outing can define a player's season.

This 'N That: Ryan Zimmerman hit his 21st homer of the year, a new career high. Zimmerman is now on pace to hit .273-25-93 for the year, amazing numbers when you consider how poorly (for him) he was hitting before the All-Star break.

Felipe Lopez went 0-3 and dropped his average to .239. How is it a guy with a career .258 average (an average brought down by a rough start in the majors) is suddenly benign at the plate? It's not RFK; his batting average was 13 points higher with the Nationals last year then with the Reds. I have to believe - rather, I want to believe - that this has been the prototypical "off year" that every player goes through in their career.

Lopez hit 23 homers with Cincinnati last year, mostly the result of the Reds' crackerbox of a stadium. Conversely, he's on pace to hit 12 homers this year, partly the result in playing at RFK. The new park, slightly smaller, will likely boost his homer production back up a bit. How much? I think Lopez should be able to hit 15 homers next year, a nice figure for a speedy shortstop.

It's amazing how uninformed today's broadcasters are. When Lopez made his throwing error yesterday, Rockies' announcer George Frazier said, "That's a surprise, it's the 14th error for Lopez this year, who is normally a slick little fielder." Really? From our perspective as Nats' fans, 14 errors is wonderful, half of what he committed last year. We're as stunned as Frazier but for different reasons; the guy is actually playing decent defense.

John Lannan has been sent back to Columbus, though it's going to be for just this week; he'll be returning when the rosters expand on September 1st.


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