December 14, 2019

A Capps-i-tal Idea

April 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Washington Nationals have a negative run differential of minus fourteen, yet a winning record at 12-10.  When they have been bad they have been horrid, but give their bullpen a lead into the late innings and they have been extra-ordinary. Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps have done it by allowing a scant three runs–two earned–in 28 innings of stellar relief.

Don’t look now, but the Washington Nationals are gaining ground on the Philadelphia Phillies, or is that the Mets in first place in the NL East?  Ryan Howard has signed a contract as big as the man and his talent, but pitching has spelled success in the NL East so far and the teams that have been getting it for the last three weeks have been the Nationals and Mets.

When Matt Capps was getting lit up in spring training and the team had the worst Grapefruit League record, Mike Rizzo’s idea that Capps could return to the closer role after a disastrous 2009 looked dubious at best.  Flash forward to the end of April to watch Capps shut down the Cubs for the second straight day in the ninth inning, converting his tenth save out of ten save opportunities.  Mike Rizzo, we love you man.

It started with Livan Hernandez who has been as good as he was in 2005 for his four starts.  The rest of the staff has taken their lead from the girthsome Cuban. Craig Stammen said that Livan told him to “relax.”  That from Mr. “Cuban Relaxation,” who knows the subject well.  It has worked.  Stammen and Scott Olsen each have looked game and a young man named Luis Atilano has won his first two starts in the majors.

Tyler Clippard, who looks like Elvis Costello in a baseball hat rather than a porkpie one, has been just as good as Capps.  I don’t know how many “holds” he has but it must be a bunch.  His three wins ties Hernandez for the lead on the club.  His unorthodox over-the-top delivery of a 91-mph fastball has–thus far–confused every one except Pudge Rodriguez who keeps calling for the high heat and watching them swing and miss.

The most surprising aspect of this team is the fielding.  A year ago some one should have run from the dugout to sound reveille when the ball was hit to make sure the team was awake.  A year later, a new GM and no Lastings Milledge.  Now the Nationals have one of the highest defensive efficiency ratings in the National League and rate in the top half in double-plays, assists and every other fielding category.

Ian Desmond has been a big part of that transformation.  The rookie shortstop has remarkable range and agility.  With Ryan Zimmerman he gives the Nationals a left side of the diamond that ranks with anyone’s.  Pudge Rodriguez, Nyjer Morgan and Adam Kennedy have made the rest of the up-the-middle defense none too shabby either.  Josh Willingham has made fine plays in left field and if the team is going to settle for Bernadina and Maxwell in right field, the defense will be sparkling if nothing else.

So bring it on Mr. Strasburg and don’t forget your buddy Drew Storen.  We got five more months of baseball here in DC and it’s all good for now.

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