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[December 28th] -- Whoosh - pop. Whoosh - pop. Whoosh - pop. That's the sound of Chris Schroder's fastball hitting the catcher's mitt.

"Ball f-o-u-r!"

That's the sound of the umpire sending yet another one of Schroder's opposing hitters to first base.

And therein lies the problem.

I didn't know his name when Schroder pitched his first major league game last summer. His numbers with the Nationals - 0-2, 6.35 - certainly doesn't suggest that the Oklahoma native is headed for any real success at the major league level. At 28, he hasn't been a prospect for several years. Yet there he was, pitching 21 games for the Nationals last summer. He's a 28 year old rookie who still commands a spot on the 40 man roster.

What gives?

Schroder, a product of Oklahoma City University, was taken by the Expos in the 19th round (#562) in the 2001 amateur draft. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, Schroder looks like a power pitcher but his fastball rarely hits 90 mph. Yet throughout his minor league career, he's been a strikeout pitcher. A career 25-14, 2.95 hurler, Schroder has averaged more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. How did he do it? "Late movement" according to former New Orleans' manager Tim Foli and "late life" says Nats' pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

His hits allowed per 9 innings is just as sparkling. The Nationals had only one pitcher - Chris Booker - who had a hits to 9 innings ratio below 8.0. Schroder has allowed only 6.8 hits per 9 innings during his minor league career. By way of example, Johan Santana averaged 8.71 hits per 9 innings during his time in the minor leagues, Roger Clemens 6.14 and Brandon Webb 8.82. So it's obvious that Schroder is in fast company.

So if he's so good, why did he just this year get an opportunity to pitch in the major leagues?

Maxwell Smart. Agent 99. You know; control.

Clemens averaged 2.1 walks per 9 innings in the minors, Johan Santana 3.58 and Brandon Webb 3.12.

Chris Schroder has averaged 4.36 walks per 9 innings.

High walk totals in the minor leagues are usually compiled by power pitchers trying to learn the strike zone. Randy Johnson averaged nearly 7 walks per 9 innings in the minors but only half that many in the majors. He was finally able to learn how to control his electric "stuff." Each year, his walk total diminished. He was learning his craft.

But Schroder is neither a power pitcher nor is his walk totals diminishing. Take a look at his walks per 9 innings totals since his rookie year:

And in 21 games with the Nationals, Schroder averaged nearly 5 walks per 9 innings.

Again, if he can't pitch straight, why are the Nats giving him another chance?

Schroder wasn't a day-in-and-day-out mediocre pitcher in 2006. He was either really really good or really really bad. I broke down his 21 appearances last season into two categories: games where he walked no one and games where he walked at least one. Talk about a night and day difference.

Games with no walks:

Games with at least one walk:

When Schroder is in control, he is unbeatable. He averaged less than 3 runners and almost 9 strikeouts per 9 innings when he walked no one. When his control suffered, however, he really suffered, allowing 16 hits and 13 walks per 9 innings.

Which is the real Chris Schroder? Is there a real Chris Schroder? Without question, he'd be a tremendous asset in the Nationals bullpen (he's never started a professional game) if he could just keep his pitches in the strike zone. When he begins to miss on the corners, he tends to pitch down the middle to compensate and ... well ... we know what happens when pitchers do that.

As for the Nationals, they remain hopeful. Randy St. Claire worked with Schroder to increase the "bite" on his slider throughout the summer. "I like him," said St. Claire. "I like him because he likes to pitch with his fastball and has command of his fastball. He knows how to pitch up in the strike zone, which is very big."

Even with the positive accolades from his pitching coach, time is running out for Chris Schroder. He's a special talent -- I mean, how many guys with a 90 mph fastball strike out more than a batter an inning? But the last thing a team needs is a relief pitcher who comes into a game throwing balls and walking batters; it's the old "pouring gas on flames" scenario. My guess is that if Schroder doesn't show the Nationals in spring training that he can throw strikes consistently, he just may lose that spot on the 40 man roster to one of the team's young pitching talents.

And that's too bad. Schroder is a lot like the engine in my old 1968 Oldsmobile 442. When it was misfiring, I could barely reach interstate speed. But when that Rocket V-8 was purring instead of puffing, the only thing I couldn't pass on the highway was the gas station.

I am going to hope for the best for Chris Schroder but I also understand the reality that wild pitchers just don't figure it out all of a sudden. That's "one in a thousand" type of stuff.

That said, here's hoping he's the one.

Zito Crossing The Bay? The Rangers are reporting that Barry Zito's agent Scott Boras has told them that he is signing "elsewhere," which is likely to be the San Francisco Giants.

First: yay! The Mets don't get him so the Nationals will have a few extra chances to win a game against the boys in blue.

Zito signing with the Giants makes a lot of sense. He has lived in San Francicso while pitching for the Athletics for many years, so though he's changing teams and getting a hefty pay raise, he'll continue to live in his current home. Now that's a pretty good deal.

Okay, now to the crazy part. Zito is getting a seven year deal for about $18 million dollars a year. I guess I shouldn't say 'crazy.' Zito is getting $7 million more than Gil Meche, which makes sense. That Gil Meche is making $11 million -- that's the crazy thing.

So Zito stays in the west. Of course, another arm in New York wouldn't have made much of a difference over the next couple of years, but when the good times come, I'd like the other NL East teams to be descending while the Nationals are ascending.

Only logical, right?

Nice write-up of Schroder, Farid. The raging Beltway partisan in me can't help but take issue with your Gerald Ford piece though. The Nixon pardon is debatable (I would have rather he let the judicial process work), but one thing that people tend to forget is that Ford was also responsible for allowing Indonesia to invade East Timor, which cost an estimated 100K-200K East Timorese their lives. Of course, Clinton continued the arms sales, so my side of the aisle can't claim to have clean hands either. Just thought I should point out Ford's role in it though.
You're absolutely right; I remember that and I regret it. That said, I didn't mind taking a superficial swipe at the guy on the day he died, but didn't want to bring up the East Timor atrocities while the body was still warm.

But you're right, he blew it. And you won't find my side of the aisle embracing his presidencty very often because he wasn't a Republican in the truest sense. To call him a moderate would be kind.

That said, I'll embrace Jerry Ford the man. He was a decent human being.

That, and I had a crush on his daughter Susan. I met her once (for about 5 seconds) through one of her secret service agents who lived in my apartment building. We came home from playing basketball and there were pictures of the White House and the Fords all over his walls. He told me that Susan had taken them (I think they had a 'fling' but I'm not sure) Anyway, they stopped in at Peoples' Drugs where I was working to buy a pack of gum -- though really so I could meet her. Oooooh. My knees buckle for blonde hair and freckles.

D.C. is full of stories like that - meeting someone important through someone you know. I guess it's kind of like being famous by proxy.
Maybe we should just let him pitch on the days he doesn't walk anyone, and the team can then take a "mulligan" on the bad days.

Could happen, right?
I always thought he had the talent to be a major leaguer. He's one of those guys where you look at his minor league record and think "why isn't this guy in the 'show?'"

Excellent article. Do you get a lot of hits, I mean, are you one of the top blogs in the Natoshere?
Thanks for the kind words. As far as my blog, I have no idea. I used to keep track of the hits but don't anymore. Back then, good days were 200-300 hits, bad days were 80.

Striketwo.net follows all 800 baseball blogs and says The Beltway Boys is #16 based on criteria I don't understand (I think it's link-backs to the site and not actual hits. That said, I could be #700 and wouldn't change my approach. I write about what interests me, not what I think others want to read. I think that attitude makes my readership smaller but more loyal. I usually see the same 20 names in the comment section.

But like I said, I do this for the love of the Nationals, and not to see how many hits I can get on a counter. There are some tremendous Nats' blogs that for whatever reason don't get a lot of hits. It just goes to show that quality of the site and number of visitors don't always equate.
Zito signing with the Giants makes a lot of sense.

True enough. But is the reverse true? Does the Giants signing Zito make any sense? I guess they are in a "win-now" mode, but taking on that long a deal...I just don't get it on their end.
I don't think that contracts like that make any sense. It makes sense that he stayed in the bay area -- that's the only sense I see here.
Great article. The uniform Schroeder is wearing in the action pic looks like it's from the Braves Organization. Do you know which team he was pitching for in the picture?

Schroeder must have late movement because when he's on, the batters look like he's throwing real HEAT.
that's the Harrisburg Senators uniform that they stopped using last year.
Scroeder was lights out at times last year, then the very next time out would look less than mediocre. At times his fastball and slider were unhittable by batters. I would like to see him get a solid shot.
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