Thursday, May 12, 2005


The New Kids in Town

Hey Everybody! Let's meet the Washington Nationals! (or: Meet your new team, same as the old team)

Just last year the Nationals were a team with no home and no future. They were a hair's bredth away from being contracted and were the political whipping boy of MLB (now the Twins have that honor. Get those boys a new stadium, stat!) . Now they are the darlings of the National League and are selling merchandise by the truckload. Not only are they popular, but they are 20-18, which is a far-sight better than our beloved Cubbies.

The question for this quasi-preview is, why are they so above average? Well, let's take it piece by piece.

The Pitching

According to the Cubdom, the Nationals have very solid starting pitching and not much bullpen. They rank fourth in starters' ERA, but the bullpen ERA is fifth to last and actually worse than the Cubs (gasp!). Unfortunately, the Cubs are running into the Nationals' best pitchers in Esteban Loiza, Livan Hernandez, and John Patterson (the pitcher, not the writter) who have ERAs of 3.69, 4.02, and 2.65 respectively. Are they as good as their ERA's indicate? Well, there is nothing obvious to suggest that Patterson or Loiza are figments of small sample size, but Livan is a ticking time bomb. He has given up almost as many walks as strikeouts and is striking out less than 5 men per 9 innings. So, if the Cubs are going to scratch out a win in this series, he will be their best shot. The bullpen ERA has been marred by a few truly horrendous outings, but they have some excellent pitchers in the 'pen. Chad Cordero, Hector Carrasco, and Gary Majewski have all three excelled out of the pen, so I wouldn't read too much into the high bullpen ERA.

The Hitting

The Nationals have a few hitters that have been doing very well, and defying all the laws of physics, Vinny Castilla is one of them. He seems to have forgotten that he was a product of Coors Field would is in his decline phase (lucky for us Burnitz seems to have forgotten the same thing). The Nationals' best hitter is Nick Johnson (BA: .328, OBP: 441) who has yet to end his season with an injury (just give him time). Until he gets hit with his annual injury, there is no reason to think that Johnson is going to fall off of his pace appreciably. He has always been a good hitter with excellent patience. The big power threat on this team is Jose Guillen with 8 homers and he's batting over .300 to boot. Whatever progress he made as an Angel, he has carried with him to Washington. Jose Vidro and Brad Wilkerson round out the good part of the lineup and are having solid seasons. The only major hole in the Nationals' lineup is Christian Guzman who has picked up where he left off in Minnesota...and sucked. He is playing like Neifi (but not like Neifi!).

The Analysis

The Cubs have drawn the Nationals' three best pitchers and are playing on the road (in a pitcher's park). None of this spells good things for the Cubs offense, so the pitching is going to have to be on the ball. The Nationals have a very solid lineup and have been playing good ball of late. I'm afraid the Cubs will struggle to win more than one game in this series, but I'm naturally hoping for 2 out of 3. Even if the Cubs can only manage one win it will still be interesting to see the new stadium and uniforms and all that, so all will not be lost.

Cubs play tomorrow at 6:05 CT. Go Cubs!

That was very cool. How often are you gonna do previews of the opposing teams? Will that become a regular thing?
Well, if it is very cool, then I certainly will. This was a pretty quick and dirty look at the Nationals. In the future, if I make this a regular thing, it can be a little more user friendly.

Off-days always make for good days for previews.
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