Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What is the DEAL . . . with THAT?

In first, but a sweep away from last; survey says, "Precarious"

St. Barry of Svrluga gives us a lengthy analysis today of the various "whys" the Nats are sitting in first place in the National League East on June 7.

Of course, the question of whose "whys" Svrluga relates isn't all that clearly answered. Is it St. Barry's sermon, or is it a composite of what the team thinks? Judging by the article, I'd guess it's the latter. We'll have to wait for his Wednesday chat, I guess, to determine this for sure.

Anyway, the article lists several factors:

---> The bullpen.
---> Late-inning rallies.
---> Home field advantage.
---> Good team chemistry.

I think you can almost reduce these down to two groups. The second point is associated with the first point, creating Group I, and---though I know nothing of team chemistry, of course---I'd surmise the fourth point relates to the third, creating Group II.

Go from there:

---> Group I: Svrluga would normally get cut to shreds for a bit of analysis like this:

Forget, for a moment, that Nationals relievers have a pedestrian ERA of 4.24, right in the middle of the NL. The key here has been the last three men, those used to finish out tight ballgames [Ayala, Majewski, and Cordero] . . .

But it's justified here. Even into June, the damage to the bullpen ERA inflicted by Antonio Osuna and Joe Horgan hasn't been mitigated. (It hasn't even resolved itself in the overall team ERA.) The 4.24 ERA figure is misleading. At the three back-enders, particularly Majewski, have been just short of great so far.

It's not too hard to note what this means for the team. By and large, the 'pen keeps the Nats in games. Lucky breaks go your way, and all of a sudden you've got 21 come-from-behind victories out of 31 total wins, or whatever.

---> Group II: I'll admit that this grouping is a bit more nebulous; I'm no authority to speak of clubhouse chemistry, even assuming for the sake of argument that the stuff doesn't merely track success or failure on the field (and not serve as a catalyst for such). But I can see how a unique park came embolden (or embiggen?) a team, make it feel special, etc. (I can also see how it can be of some tangible benefit, too.) Of course, having fans in seating behind you can keep the interest high, as well.

(I should note for the sake of completeness that the Expos played better at "home" last season than on the road, though only at a 70-win pace.)

So there you go. Svrluga's article really should mention other factors, like over 200 combined innings of generally excellent pitching from ¡LIVAN! , Loaiza, and Patterson, among other things. But the article will make do, I guess.


St. Barry wasn't the only one getting all reflective on an off-day:

Rocket offers a stirring tribute to Frank Robinson.

Nationalz Shane takes a look at the Svrluga article and also opines that Tomo Okha got off easy for his act of defiance.

Beltway Boys Farid can only conclude that hell indeed has frozen over; plus, he takes a look at the once and future (perhaps?) Barry Zito.

The Gray Pages is back and and giving Misters Johnson, Wilkerson, Castilla, and Guillen their due.

Chris has a look at where the Nats shake out against the "average" NL lineup position. Diagnosis: second and short are weak. Probable dosage: more of the same for awhile.

Ryan takes a look at our schedule-to-date, glances at interleague play, and asks the $64,000 (or $3 million) question of why we're looking at outfielders.

JH from Nats Review provides a thorough deconstruction of interleague play.

Nats Blog is busy, as per usual, with a look at the Nats' odds of winning the division (roughly 20%, we're told) and the list of the top plays of the year, according to Win Value.

Harper from OMG advises us, "It's the last season, stupid!" In other words, don't look at this year in isolation, but evaluate this season's team in light of last year's flukily (is that a word?) miserable season.

Nat Fanatics has a bunch o' columns up from recent days, including one that advocates a trade for Alfonso Soriano.


BREAKING NEWS: "With the fourth pick in the first round of the MLB draft, the Washington Nationals select . . . Ryan Zimmerman, third baseman, University of Virginia."

I know; big surprise!

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