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BRAVES NEEDED WIN, NATS DIDN'T & IT SHOWED

[September 9th] -- I know, I know. But we'll get to that in a minute.

First: Matt Chico is back with a vengeance.

In two games after returning from 'AAA' Columbus, Matt Chico has been stellar. In 12 innings pitched, Chico has given up just ONE EARNED RUN on 10 hits. He's walked just 2 (a big problem before he was demoted) while striking out 8. Remember all those balls he kept throwing? Gone (at least for now). He's thrown 112 strikes and just 61 balls. He's getting ahead in the count and he's finishing off the hitters. Earlier this year, he was giving up basehit after basehit after getting two strikes on batters. To be sure, two starts does not a season make, but those two starts have given him, and the Nationals, great hope for next year. With the misadventures of Joel Hanrahan, the team needs Chico's steadying influence for the remainder of the year.

Okay, so what the funk is going on? Has the past two nights been a "market correction" as I suggested yesterday or have the players given up and are now "officially" playing out the string? Though it does look suspicious, I have to believe they are trying. Ryan Zimmerman's error is due to his mechanics - and his brain farts - and have nothing to do with effort. I guarantee that he'll return to his gold glove form next year. I mean, he just has to. Nook Logan's ill-timed leap seems more a reflection of the way he plays defense. He makes the difficult plays look easy and the easy plays look difficult. That's just who he is. He's played well of late and has regularly been turning line-drive gap doubles into routine outs the past few weeks. He continues to improve on his hitting - he had two bunt singles last night and is again hitting .270. That said, he has a .309 on-base percentage and has 73 strikeouts in just 273 at bats. Think about that; had Logan been playing everyday, he'd have more than 140 whiffs from the leadoff position. Yech.

I think I've seen enough. I'm ready to say that Nook Logan is a starting outfielder on teams like the Royals and the Pirates and the Devil Rays, teams that never seem to get better. But on the Nationals, a team that has a "plan" and continues to implement it, he is a very very good 4th outfielder. From that perspective, he's a guy who can enter the game late for defense, or as a pinch-hitter, or pinch-runner. He would be fine starting 30 games or so a year. Keep him. Just replacement in the starting lineup.

Felipe Lopez is a different story. As the season progresses, he's getting worse. And unlike Zimmerman, it's just not throws to first that's causing him problems. He's letting balls scoot through his legs, he's letting flips at the bag trickle off his glove; he seems as though he is the one National who has given up. No way he comes back; he'll be non-tentered and causing problems somewhere else next season.

The lustre of Dmitri Young's improbable season is beginning to slowly wear off. Batting .336 just a few games ago, the burly first-baseman went hitless again last night and he's now batting .325. I'm not surprised (he's not a .330 hitter), just disappointed. Although I supported Jim Bowden's decision to sign Young to a two-year deal earlier this summer, I don't for a moment believe that the Nationals will contend with him as our full-time first baseman. That said, it's not like we had anyone in the minors who could have taken over.

Wait a minute.

Didn't we recently trade one of our minor league pitchers to the Diamondbacks for their top first-base prospect, Chris Carter. You know, the guy that batted .316-19-88 with a .377 OBP and is likely to be the next "new" first-baseman in Boston?

Based on what I've seen thus far, Wilo Mo Pena is not a hitter. He's a swinger with power who will hit home runs when he connects. Just don't count on him connecting that often. St. Barry mentioned in his journal this weekend that he's concerned with his plate ability. Remember how we looked at his .291 OBP with Boston and thought it was an aberration? Well, it was - kind of. With the Nationals, he's "upped" it all the way to .297. He's going to start for the Nationals next year and he'll hit 30 homers and he'll drive in 90 and the rest of the numbers will look very very ugly. How ugly? Tony Batista ugly. Playing for the Expos in their last season in Montreal, Batista hit 32 homers and drove in 110 runs. He also batted just .241 and had a .272 OBP. New GM Jim Bowden refused to re-sign him with those numbers and brought in Vinny Castilla.

If not Tony Batista, then why Wily Mo Pena?

I might be wrong here, but I don't see the Nationals contending with Pena in left unless he gets on base at a .340 clip or higher. He's young and he might improve but .....

Happy Sunday.


Comments:
Jim Bowden unequivocally stated that all of his scouts were in agreement that Carter was a terrible fielder. Dmitri Young all over again. His scouts have been pretty realiable in a short period of time. Are you not paying attention? Young is not the answer, Carter is not the answer, neither is Wily Mo Pena probably the answer. For a cheap price, Bowden took a gamble, nothing more. In the long run--he can only win with him, not lose. This team is a long way from competing, you take chances when there is a high ceiling. Do you not understand that?
 
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