Bring on the (ugh) Nationals

TWO OF THREE…
As with everyone else under the sun, I figured the Yankees could take two of three games from a poorly planned and injury-depleted Mets team, I just figured they would win Game 1 on their own merits and Game 2 by feasting on a journeyman starter before losing Game 3 to one of the best pitchers in baseball. I didn’t figure on them winning Game 1 because a veteran made a Little League misplay, losing game two by being shut down by the fringe-y guy, and then annihilating the Cy Young winner in Game 3. Let’s not even predict what the Yankees might do against the Nats… Then again, it’s sort of my job, so let’s give ‘er a go.

The Nationals are obviously a miserable ballclub, one with a chance to rank with the worst of all time. Their current .262 winning percentage works out to 42-118 over a full season. Just a few teams have been that bad. Here’s the bottom 10 since 1900:

YEAR PCT W L
1 A’s 1916 .235 36 117
2 Braves 1935 .248 38 115
3 Mets 1962 .250 40 120
4 Senators 1904 .252 38 113
5 A’s 1919 .257 36 104
6 Tigers 2003 .265 43 119
7 Pirates 1952 .273 42 112
8 Senators 1909 .276 42 110
9 Phillies 1942 .278 42 109
T10 Red Sox 1932 .279 43 111
T10 Phillies 1941 .279 43 111
T10 Browns 1939 .279 43 111

If they continue along their present path, the Nats would slot in right next to the 2003 Tigers. However, the Nationals are not like the 2003 Tigers. Those Tigers couldn’t hit, pitch, or field. The Nats are bad at two out of three, but they have average hitting. They don’t catch the ball, their starting pitching is the worst in the league, allowing nearly six runs per game, and their bullpen may yet prove to be the worst in the history of relief pitching.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees will get off easy. Their best bet for an easy win is Tuesday, when CC Sabathia takes on the Curacao-born 22-year-old Shairon Martis (with a name like Shairon, I keep thinking he must be Israeli). As the Nationals go, he’s pitched very well, with five quality starts in 12 tries, including a complete game, one-run win over the Cardinals. What works in the Yankees’ favor, particularly because this series is being contested in New York, is that Martis gives up a lot of fly balls and has a low strikeout rate. That suggests the Yankees making good contact and hitting balls in the air, and we know what happens when they do that at home. In addition, two of their three best hitters, Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn, are left-handed, which should be helpful to Mr. Sabathia.

Wednesday’s game has to be rated a toss-up. First, Washington lefty John Lannan can actually pitch. He’s not an extreme ground ball pitcher, but he gets enough of them to keep the ball in the park. On the downside, he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, meaning (again) those deadly balls in play. Lefties have also hit him well, slugging .493 against him in his career with a home run every 21.2 at-bats. The Yankees, who list seven left-handers or switch-hitters most days, should be able to do some damage. Unfortunately, much will also depend on whether Chien-Ming Wang can overcome his mechanical difficulties and put in a good start. Thursday’s match-up should again favor the Yankees, as the rookie Craig Stammen will face Joba Chamberlain. Of course, much will depend on Chamberlain throwing strikes. Stammen is no pistol (please pardon the bad horticultural pun), but does have good control. Like Lannon, he has an above-average groundball rate and his strikeout rate is on the low side.

The great thing about the Nationals from the point of view of the opposition is that they can blow a lead at any time. Even if the Yankees trail in these games, they have more than a fair chance at coming back against the bullpen. Their relievers have an aggregate ERA of 5.59. Reliever ERA isn’t the most accurate way to look at bullpen performance, but in this case, it makes a fine proxy for better measures, as it fairly depicts how miserable they’ve been. That should take some pressure off of Wang and Chamberlain — though not all of it, particularly for Wang. One question that arises out of Joe Girardi’s “pitch well or else” edict to Wang is, what about the start after?

COMING UP

We finally get to the mats with reader comments, and Wholesome Reading (Warning! Politics!) continues to be updated.

6 Comments

You didn’t seriously write “Stammon is no pistol”, did you? Ugh.

Stammen pitched with style last time out, but I’m not sure he can overcome the stigma of pitching against the Yankees and throw anther quality start, especially with his peduncle in attendance.

Your move, Steven.

The issue I have is the Yankees propensity to make “no name” pitchers look like Cy Young…please see Sat game for evidence.

The Nats are just the sort of team to trip the Yankees (and the Red Sox) up.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

The thing to remember about the Nats is the hitting is actually quite good. You say average, but up until the last two weeks – when Guzman, Dunn and Zimmerman all fell into slumps, they were 3rd in the NL in scoring. I think that will tick back up at some point. Throw in future Met Nick Johnson, plus Josh Willingham’s .891 OPS, they aren’t slouches with the bats. It’s with everything else they they do their best slouching

In terms of pitching, it’s just not there. All rookie starters other than Lannan means a rough go. Lannan vs. Wang should actually be a great matchup. They are similar in more ways than they’re different, strikeout rates aside.

I think from a Nats fan point of view it’s good that Detwiler and Zimmermann don’t start in this series. They will be needed in 2010 along with Strasburg, and the Yankees at home can mess with pitchers heads. Also needed are some people who can field, if you know any.
This may be Manny Acta’s last series, and Mets fans, he could be sitting on a bench near you in the near future…

http://nationalsreview.wordpress.com/

The 3-2 loss to the Nats:
With Gardner on 3rd and 1 out why is it a delayed squeeze not considered? In fact anytime Gardner was on 3rd with less than 2 outs it has never been attempted. Billy Martin would have called
for it. In this game the risk of Cano hitting into a double play
was more probable than catching Gardner coming in to score and
tie the game on a delayed squeeze.

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