CHAD'S BAD, BUT IS IT FIXABLE?
[May 7th] -- I love the Washington Nationals. Really, I do. After thirty three years of quiet nights at RFK, bad baseball is far superior to no baseball at all.
That said, that doesn't make this hurt any less.
Was there really anyone watching Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs who believed - really believed - that Chad Cordero was going to come out of the 9th inning with a save? If you looked at Cordero's countenance, the way he held himself on the mound, it was obvious that even he didn't think he had a chance. Six balls and some poorly placed pitches cost Shawn Hill, who is quickly becoming the team's only shining light in an otherwise dreary darkness, the win. The message boards are abuzz .... either Cordero has been figured out by the competition or he's just in a slump. I tend to lean towards the "he's been figured out" side. Even during his magical 2005 season, he was still letting runners get on base on a regular basis -- the difference is that he was able to get out of those jams back then. I remember one game against the Angels in Los Angeles when he loaded the bases with no one out with just a one-run lead before slamming the door and earning the save. In his first season with Montreal, Cordero gave up less than seven base-runners per 9 innings. This year, he's up to 2.1 base-runners per inning.
His fastball has remained constant since 1994; it's his location that is causing him angst. It's not that he's allowing more walks than before, but rather he's getting behind early and often, and hitters are learning to wait for that one "batting practice fastball" Cordero must throw to get a strike -- it's then that the trouble begins.
I'm sure that he'll get better in the coming weeks. In all likelihood, he'll have an ERA of 3.50 or so - perhaps he'll even save 20 games. But I just don't know if he can be counted upon again as that dominating force out of the bullpen, that guy that is feared by the rest of the league. It happens more often than one might think. In 2005, Derrick Turnbow saved 39 games with the Milwaukee Brewers while crafting a 1.74 ERA. After a decent first-half of 2006, however, he began to get hit hard, and finished with a 6.87 ERA. I'm not suggesting that Cordero will fall that far, but I doubt we'll see 2005 again.
Luckily, a bunch of blown saves don't mean very much this year. I am wishing, however, that Jim would have traded him last fall, before "this" could have happened. He'll be worth very little in trade, at least for the foreseeable future.
Here's hoping that Chad returns to form. Until then, however, the Nationals have learned yet another way to lose.
Position by position, things are looking bad. Brian Schneider has never hit well in April. Dmitri Young is slumping. So is Felipe Lopez. Cristian Guzman is back, and that's really bad. Ryan Zimmerman isn't hitting and committed his 7th error of the year (he made 15 all of last year). Everyone who has played in left has sucked. Ryan Church and Austin Kearns are the only two who have been relatively consistent since opening day. And the pitching? Outside of Shawn Hill and Jason Bergman (and a few relievers), things have looked really, really bad.
There are several nuggest of hope in the farm system, but virtually all of them are at Hagerstown and Potomac (with just a couple at Harrisburg). We're a few years away from seeing our babies grow up.
My oh my ....
Good morning Farid. The above chunk of this piece was in today's Washington Express, the Post's tabloid rag for Metro riders, in the BlogLog section. The Express' site is here, BlogLog at bottom of front page, but I did not see your entry in the online version (yet). Have a good one!