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[September 10th] -- First, he was terrific, owner of the best batting average-against in the National League.

Then he got hurt. When he came back, he was easily one of the worst pitchers in the National League, allowing 35 hits in 28 innings while walking 8 and striking out just 13. His ERA jumped from 2.72 to 4.52 in 6 starts.

Then he got hurt again.

So who would the Nationals get when Jason Bergman returned late last month, Brandon Webb or Clayton Webb (you'd know that name if you watched JAG)?

Well, he's not Brandon Webb, but he's close. After a solid effort on Sunday against the Braves (6 IP - 4 H - 3 R - 2 BB - 6 K), he's pitching as well as anyone on the staff. Since his return on August 28th, Bergman has allowed just 14 hits in 19 innings while striking out 16. He's walked just 4 batters. His ERA during during this period has been a very good 3.31, and has dropped that 4.52 ERA down to 4.31.

True, he gave up a two-run homer to Chipper Jones in the first, but the ball was well placed and well thrown; it crossed home plate below Jones' knees. Sometimes, perfect pitches get hit 420 feet. The other run he allowed came off a well-hit ball by Mark Texiera. His ball had a lot of movement and he was throwing what looked to be a clone of Shawn Hill's sinker.

At this point, it seems that the Nationals have three pitchers who are ending the season well and should be shoe-ins for next season's starting rotation. Shawn Hill, Jason Bergman and Matt Chico will be joined by two other pitchers from a group that will include John Patterson (maybe), John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan. I see no reason why the Nationals can't reach .500 next year with those guys pitching if the Nats add TWO premium bats (Adam Dunn, Aaron Rowand, etc.).

Good news! Ryan Zimmerman didn't strike out on Sunday, didn't commit an error and hit his 23rd home run of the year. That plane ride just got a lot easier for Zimmerman thanks to that 9th inning home run off of Jose Ascanio. If the kid holds true to form, he'll have a great series in Florida. Here's hoping.

We've watched Wily Mo Pena play for the Nationals for almost a month now, and I think all of us have a pretty good feel for the type of player he is. So who do you want to start in the outfield next year, Pena or Ryan Church? As much as I wanted Pena to succeed, to prove the Reds and Red Sox wrong, I think that Church can help the team win in more ways than Pena. Pena is striking out once every 3.3 at-bats and has a .297 OBP. Church fans one every 4.6 at-bats and has a .340 OBP. I'm afraid that Pena, unless he discovers "religion" this off season, will not be the team's long term answer in the outfield. And Church? Well, he might not be back next year either - he's never been a favorite of management. Had he played all season, gotten a full complement of at-bats, his numbers would have looked something like this:

BA: .266 - 2B: 57 - 3B: 2 - HR: 18 - RBI:88 - OPS:775

Now, that's not great to be sure, but it is good enough if the other two outfielders are solid home run type hitters. Church won't have the home run production of Pena, but his RBI's will be close and he'll easily surpass Pena in batting average, doubles and on-base percentage.

I just don't want another Rob Deer or Dave Kingman in the Nationals' outfield next year, ESPECIALLY if the team somehow signs/trades for Adam Dunn.

Jose Guillen went 4-5 for the Mariners yesterday and is now .289-19-88 for Seattle. Do we miss him? There is a lot of talk coming out of Seattle about "clubhouse problems" that have worsened during the team's recent losing streak. Any question as to who's the ringleader? Jose Vidro is hitting .313 -6- 55 with a .379 OBP. That's good. What's bad is his .393 SLG percent and the knowledge that he could never have duplicated those numbers while playing second base in Washington. The DH was created for players like Jose Vidro.

While we're at it, lets take a look at how all those young players are doing that Omar Minaya traded away for absolutely nothing:

Grady Sizemore (CF) Indians: .273-23-72 30 steals

Brandon Phillips (2B) Reds: .288-28-84

Jason Bay (LF) Pirates: .253-20-82 (an off year)

Chris Young (P) Padres: 9-6, 2.63

How much better would the Nationals be right now if the team still had these players? Again, Minaya gave them up for absolutely nothing. Bill Ladson told me that he believes that Minaya did a great job with the Expos. That is one area where Bill and I disagree.

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