This week we have Patrick Reddington from the blog, Federal Baseball. The Nats are actually playing fairly well this season. Let’s give them hell on the blog after the O’s get the huge curly sweep.
Q: Not to sound like an ass, but what are the Nats doing right this year in reference to what the O’s are doing wrong?
I have to admit, I try to ignore the American League until Interleague Play forces me to pay attention, so I can’t really speak to what the O’s are doing wrong, other than being stuck in the AL East, but until the most recent string of 5 losses in 6 games, the Nationals were succeeding on the strength of pitching and defense, just like DC GM Mike Rizzo had planned it. Matt Capps has closed out every opportunity he’s had so far, a year after the bullpen was a real issue, and Tyler Clippard’s continued to dominate the late innings like he did late last year. What the Nats couldn’t have planned on was having Livan Hernandez become the staff ace, with John Lannan struggling, and Jason Marquis injured and on the DL after signing a two-year free-agent deal this winter. The Nats were the worst team in the majors defensively last season, so they shored up the middle of the infield with Pudge behind the plate, Ian Desmond and Adam Kennedy at short and second and Nyjer Morgan in center, and though Morgan’s struggled recently, he’s the everyday center fielder the Nats have been missing for years. Pitching and defense, that’s been the difference so far…
Q: Has either winning or the abrupt end to the Caps season helped the Nats attendance this year?
I expected a big bump in attendance at Nationals Park after the Caps’ season ended, but it hasn’t really happened. The only noticeable influence the Caps have had on the Nats, so far, is the “Let’s Go Cap(p)s” chant that’s carried over from the Verizon Center to Nats Park. I think the debut of Stephen Strasburg (on an as yet undetermined date) is the thing that’s going to finally start drawing new fans to the park, whether or not they keep coming back. The Nationals packed RFK when they were successful early in ’05, but until they start to compete in the NL East and make a serious run at the playoffs, I think they’ll get the same 20,000 (average) they are now…
Q: Who have been the difference makers on offense this season?
Pudge Rodriguez was the difference maker early though he’s coming back to reality recently. Josh Willingham carried the team for a while with Adam Dunn struggling offensively and Ryan Zimmerman battling injuries. Ian Desmond at short is providing more power than the Nats have gotten out of Cristian Guzman in past years. When Zimmerman’s been in the lineup he’s continued to hit the ball, and Dunn’s been getting on base even when he wasn’t providing the usual power early, but in the first quarter of the season it was Pudge and Willingham providing the bulk of the offense.
Q: Whats more astounding- Strasburg’s or Livan Hernandez’ velocity?
Stephen Strasburg’s fastball was actually drawing gasps out of the crowd in his last minor league start (no joke, I heard it on the radio), but Livan Hernandez’s ability to succeed with the stuff he throws is still probably more impressive. I tend to think it’s Pudge Rodriguez working with Livan that’s turned his career around after he struggled the last few years, but more than anything it’s just his ability to locate his pitches anywhere he wants to throw them while avoiding hitter’s bats with late (slow) movement. I reserve the right to immediately change my opinion once Strasburg debuts and I get to see him throw on a regular basis.
Q: Give us a little history on Drew Storen and why should we care?
The Nats had two first round pick last year after they failed to sign ’08 1st round pick Aaron Crow. (Who was drafted and signed by the Royals this year.) After taking Stephen Strasburg no. 1, the Nats took then-21-year-old Drew Storen 10th overall out of Stanford, where he was the Cardinal closer. Storen was considered the best relief prospect available heading into the Draft and the Nationals selected him with the idea that he could quickly transition to the major leagues and the back of the Nats’ bullpen. Storen signed quickly, barnstormed the minors last year, working his way up to Double-A, and he started there this year before moving to Triple-A and then making his MLB debut earlier this week. Storen throws a mid-90’s fastball, a two-seamer, slider, curve and change, and actually uses them all as a reliever. He was drafted because he was thought to be MLB-ready and he’s there within a year, in a year or two, when Matt Capps moves on, he’ll be the closer.
Extra Credit – I know you are one of those fancy press box people now, but if you were paying, where would you be buying your concessions and why?
When I’m not in the press box….I’d be in the Red Loft with curly-W pretzel watching the game from the open bar above the outfield. It’s a great view. Noah’s Pretzels are sold in the center field plaza and they donate money to Autism awarness groups in the DC area, so at least the money spent on concessions is going to a good cause.