Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Checking in with "Rocket Bill" All the news that's fit to disavow pre-approval

When I first started this blog in mid-January, it was a relatively boring time in the Nats' infancy. The whole movement to bring the Expos to DC had already succeeded. Then, temporarily, it sort of failed. Then it succeeded again. Wasn't that fun? The offseason moves had largely occurred; I got in on Esteban Loiaza and Antonia "Toast" Osuna---big whoop. The WaPo and the WashTimes were both figuring out exactly how they were going to cover the team.

But the one constant was Bill Ladson.

The guy was hard core back then. Oh sure, he'd do silly stuff like report breathlessly on a 22 at-bat Winter League sample size or answer banal mailbag questions. But that was part of Rocket Bill's charm, and back then, no one worked harder at hitting the pavement and getting a good scoop.

Things have changed since then. I'm not asserting that Ladson has eased off one bit, of course; for all I know, he's still just as ambitious as the nickname he earned. Instead, the competition---especially the Post---has, lamentably, left Ladson somewhat in the lurch.

I don't want to say that "Rocket Bill" is irrelevant nowadays; that would be mean, if nothing else. Instead, let's just say that he's been eclipsed. Here's a test: check out our two great news aggregator blogs, District of Baseball and William World News, and see how often Ladson's articles are linked. Hint: it's about as often as Inning-Endy walks or Carlos Baerga does push-ups.

This is probably a natural development. For one thing, Ladson might be based in DC, but he conveys very little "DC feel" to his writing. For another thing, and probably more important, Ladson is essentially lone-wolfing it over at Pravda-DC. The Post and the Times, by comparison, provide one-stop-shopping for Nats fans: game articles, notebooks, mailbags, chats, columns, etc.

And then there's "St. Barry."

We, the bloggers, all love Barry Svrluga---probably universally. Sure, there may be occasions in which we take issue with him, but I think we all realize just how good we have it. He's a top-flight beat writer, and it's not just because he's young, witty, and rather saber-friendly.

The Times also has a decent cadre of writers, and I think they're getting more sophisticated---a welcome improvement from two-to-three months ago, when their tripe would look silly compared to Svrluga's.

I'd say that once spring training hit full-steam, Ladson's utlity to Nats' fans was greatly reduced. Remember when all three sources---Post, Times, and profile the same guy on the same day?

Still, the moral of the story---this one, at least---is that Ladson is still out there and still can provide some great interest to us.

So let's check out Rocket Bill's most recent notebook. Among the nuggets provided:

Let's make a deal: [Jim] Bowden said he wasn't going to wait for left fielder Ryan Church to get hot. He is still looking to make a deal for another power hitter.

I can't say that this is really surprising, but it does conflict a bit with St. Barry's chat today. While Svrluga acknowledges in an early response that Bowden is hitting the phones trying to acquire someone like Wily Mo Pena, Svrluga adds that Bowden knows he doesn't have much with which to deal. Consequently, Barry later participates in this exchange:

Washington, D.C.: If Sledge had not gotten injured, do you think that Ryan Church may have been sent down some time in the near future? He looks overmatched almost every time at the plate.

Barry Svrluga: There is absolutely that chance. But not now. Church actually showed exactly where he is last night, hitting two hard singles but striking out twice in four at-bats. He admitted on one of the strikeouts that he had a good pitch to hit, but locked up, unable to
swing. That's inexperience. Now, whether it's good for the team or not, he's going to get experience in droves. The team believes in him for the future. We'll see how he succeeds in the present.

Of course, St. Barry also admits that he uses some "informed speculation" when he responds in the chats, so he's not directly quoting Bowden in the above excerpt. Nevertheless, the perspectives Svrluga and Ladson bring are somewhat different here. I'll also add my perception that, historically, Ladson's been an Inning-Endy advocate and Svrluga has touted Soul Patch a little bit.

Some more Ladson:

Stat of the day: In his two-plus seasons in the big leagues, reliever Chad Cordero has stranded all 25 base runners he has inherited.

What a fascinating stat! I'm not sure how probative it really is, considering Cordero's been a closer the bulk of his two-plus seasons, and closers don't tend to inherit runners with tremendous frequency. Then again, 25 inherited runners is 25 inherited runners, and it's fascinating that Cordero has stranded all of them.

Did you know? Nationals starters have limited opponents to three or fewer earned runs in 21 of the first 26 games this season.

Nope, I didn't know it. But I'd imagine it's a good thing.


A slice of our sector of the blogosphere:

---> I like the Nasty Nats, and not just because its dude, "Rocket1124," is a frequent chat-fellow of mine. Today, he posits that the Nats could be 19-8 right now. Well, maybe or maybe not, but his general point---baserunning errors kill---is a salient one.

---> ADub stressed the virtue of positivity recently, and the sentiment is especially relevant now that the Nats are in the middle of a grueling West Coast swing.

---> NatsBlog rolls out a new ERV presentation format. I like it, personally. Also, look at the comments for a nice mini-discussion on the metric's two-out mechanics. I haven't mentioned the guys' ERV work yet, mainly because I haven't had a chance to sit down and devote the metric the time and evaluation it deserves. But, believe me, this is a valuable service NatsBlog is providing.

---> National Cheese, speaking of valuable services, provides Pythagorean W/L data periodically. Useful information, I must say.

---> Harper at Oleanders and Morning Glories takes a look at what could have been---namely, the services of Odalis Perez.

---> Nationals Review takes a look at the so-called "novelty effect." The topic has been discussed on the Ballpark Guys board, so the link in Phil's post has both informative and rhetorical value. Besides, any citation to Rod Fort is a good citation, in my book.

---> Chris at Capitol Punishment gives us the annotated version of an interview between Jim Williams and a MASN hack. Let the cracks fly!

---> Ryan from Distinguished Senators is rallying the anti-Daynian troops. Down with perversion!

---> The Nat Fanatics are singularly happy that Jeffrey Hammonds is back.

---> Finally, Ballwonk provides the greatest Nats-related photo ever.

Don't be so quick to credit the Nats with their handling of Chruch, Basil ... in reference to the decision to bench him last night in favor of the incandescent Jeffrey Hammond, FRobby actually said this:

I hate strikeouts..

In 53 AB this year, Chruch has struck out 11 times - or about 20% of the time. In his career, FRobby struck out about 15% of the time ... in a MUCH LARGER SAMPLE SIZE.

Frank's gut world, where Jeffrey Hammonds is preferable to Ryan Church, is not a world I want to live in.

Reminds me of Joe Morgan. I've heard some people writer that the guy has no clue HOW he was a great player. That's probably an arrogant thing to say, but there's also probably some truth to it.
Latest from the Rocket ...

"Is it possible for the Nationals to get a pitcher like Barry Zito if they are in the pennant race during the trade deadline?"
-- Dylan A., Washington, D.C.

THE ROCKET RESPONDS: "There is a possibility. Bowden has always said that he is always looking for pitching. However, in order for a pitcher like Zito to come to the Nationals, the A's are going to have to pay most of his salary."

Helpful mailbag question and answer
Well, Bowden has little idea of what he wants and MLB is cheap. Right to the heart of it. ;-)
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