Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sweeping Observations

Some crap I thought up after the St. Louis series:

1. Rizzo's pitch-to-contact ground ball philosophy works, sometimes. The pitchers are indeed pitching to contact, but please ignore the poor middle infield defense and the inconvenient fact that some of that contact lands over the outfield walls. The Nats don't so much have a pitch-to-contact rotation as they have a rotation that gives up hits. While the Nats' starters have a GB/FB ratio of 1.24 (T7th best in the NL), those starters also have an even 5.00 ERA (3rd worst in the NL). Add in peripheral stats like a .304 BABIP, a 4.88 FIP, a K/9 of 5.20 (worst in the NL), a K/BB of 1.56, and a HR/9 ratio of 1.20, and there's only so much that can be blamed on bad defense.

Groundball pitchers with a low K/9 are iffy propositions. The historical data tends to show that if a pitcher ends up with a lot of ground balls, it's best to have a lot of strikeouts, too.

Luckily, the low strikeout rate should be worked out in next season's rotation. A very rough draft of the rotation in the middle of 2010 would have Strasburg, Olsen, Mock, Lannan, and a free agent. You've got a classic power pitcher, a two guys with decent strikeout rates, a soft-tosser who may or may not be sinking to his level, and a wild card (worst-case scenario: Livan). Add Zimmermann back in 2011 and you've got a staff that's going to either get batters to strike out or beat it into the ground (when Olsen and Zimmermann aren't giving up home runs).

2. Dukes looked pretty good in RF, maybe the best he's looked all year. Has he been reading the Bozchat?

3. Jorge Sosa is the king of suck and I don't understand why he's still on the team. Every time someone says something about how Riggleman's doing a great job and he deserves to be the permanent manager, I'm going to obnoxiously remind them that Riggleman keeps putting Jorge Sosa into ballgames.

Bergmann has also shown he doesn't deserve a roster spot. Clippard is surprising me.

4. After a truly crappy April-July, Garrett Mock went on a tear in August. Is it real? Mock's August numbers aren't that far out of line with what he did in AAA in 2008-9, and I penciled him into the 2010 rotation, but I need to see consistency. Right now, all Mock's August means is that I no longer moan in agony when I see him on the mound.

5. How is it that Khalil Greene is so shitty yet he still manages to hammer the Nats? Maybe the Nats need to sign Greene just to keep him from hitting against them.

6. Ray Knight knows things about baseball and is able to communicate them in a fairly effective manner despite not being the most articulate person ever to sit behind a microphone. Rob Dibble makes my ears and brain bleed.

Last season, when Knight would fill in for Sutton, I would do nothing but bitch until Sutton returned. Ha! Little did I know that Dibble would make Knight sound like a Rhodes Scholar.

What's the difference between Knight and Dibble? Perspective. Dibble is a real-life Kenny Powers, viewing every baseball interaction through the tiny pinhole of his years as a late-innings reliever with a fastball in the high 90s and a penchant for throwing at people. What do the viewers get? Meaningless cliches like "Let them beat you with your best stuff," endless whining about hitters standing too close to the plate, and suggestions that the pitcher's best move might just be to throw at the batter.

As a former position player and manger, Knight has a broader perspective on the game. Unlike Dibble's commentary, which it would be charity to call analysis, Knight's observations actually add to the game. Dibble knows nothing about hitting. Sure, he can give you a rudimentary breakdown of a batter's swing, but more often than not he does nothing more than coo over the super-neat qualities of MASN's X-Mo camera. He's basically a lousy sports talk radio host masquerading as a color commentator.

And it's not just because Dibble was a pitcher. Sutton made real contributions to the broadcast. SNY's Ron Darling and ESPN's Orel Hershiser add to their broadcasts. But they were all starters. Maybe the relief pitcher's role is too one-dimensional to lend itself to the ability to analyze all aspects of the game. Jeff Brantley is pretty terrible. And so is Dibble.

(For example, here's what Dibble said about Livan last night as part of the "PNC Bank Scouting Report" segment. "'I Shall Return.' Like MacArthur said, and Livan Hernandez is back. He was the student years ago, here maybe, in Washington. Now he's a teacher of these young pitchers." That's right, please pay no attention to Livan's Cuban seasons or the six seasons he played in MLB before being traded to Montreal or the 19 1/3 World Series innings he pitched for Florida and San Francisco. I'm sure it didn't really click for Livan until he walked onto the patchy brown grass of RFK in 2005. And this was something Dibble wrote in advance.)

The role of baseball will be played this evening by Marshall McLuhan. You can figure out who Dibble is.

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