Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Here's an idea...

If the Nationals had any marketing prowess, they would buy Walter Johnson's former house in Bethesda at the corner of Old Georgetown and Cedar Lane and turn it into a museum. We've said this before, but it's a shame that the Nationals don't do more to embrace the history of the Washington Senators. Johnson was the team's best player, and the Nats should wrap the franchise in his memory. We blamed their failure to do this on major league baseball, but MLB no longer owns the franchise.

If there aren't any historical structure restrictions, the Lerners could move it to the the parking lot of the new stadium. If that's not possible, make the house a museum in Bethesda.

The organization is running out of excuses for its lame marketing. How about some creative thinking, people?!

Blockbuster Wizards Trade?

Ethan's post about a Wizards/Lakers trade got me to thinking about some moves the Wizards might want to make. How about this: Arenas, their first round pick, and maybe a guy like Haywood for the Blazers' first pick and some stiffs?

Arenas is undoubtedly the Wizards best player, but the Wizards as currently configured are unlikely to get to a championship level. It's very hard to improve in the NBA, and without top draft picks or cap room a team like the Wizards has very limited tools to use in improving. So, maybe they have to break out of this box and do something dramatic.

Getting the next dominant center is pretty dramatic. I don't know whether Portland would part with Oden, but the Wizards have been without a productive big man (at either the center or power forward positions) for what seems like forever. Arenas, Butler, and Jamison are nice, but without a good player at the 4 or 5 spots, good luck and good night.


Nat's lose to Pirates 7-6

The nationals lost last night to the pirates 7-6. The nationals had help from Ryan Church who had 3 hits and 2 runs. Felipe Lopez drove in 2 runs and Mike Bacsik gave up 6 hits/6 runs in 6 innings. It's funny because Mike Bacsik woke up with a stomach ailment. This brings me back to think when they were doing well in their first half of their first season. Everyone was excited, and I loved watching their games, now I don't that often. I am hoping that before I go to college they will ever be exceptionaly good. They lose .600 of their games. It's just terrible. I want your thoughts.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nat's new stadium

I was biking with my family once and we found out like the Anacostia River, I think. So, we got there and we couldn't find how to get to the bike path. (The bike path was on the other side of the river) So we were just biking around town when my dad and I found out that we were near the National's new stadium. We got there and there was a lot of traffic and noise. I just thought it was so cool because the Nat's don't get a lot of excitement after the 1st season and they will get some excitement from the cool stadium. You might want to check it out with your family one day. It's pretty cool.


Monday, June 04, 2007

But What Does He Know About Basketball?

Erik's recent musings have inspired me to play GM: would the fans of the Wizards be willing to trade Gilbert Arenas for Andrew Bynum?

The salaries don't fit is an unacceptable response.

I digress. Erik's appreciation for all things Lebron is echoed here on the Left Coast. However, these NBA Finals, like so many recent NBA Finals, will be boring. And that boredom evolves from neither the talents nor the passions of the Spurs or Cavaliers. It is a by-product of the lengthy NBA season.

Which brings me to the point of today's Post. If David Stern intends to cement his legacy as a Great Commissioner, accompanied in the pantheon by only Pete Rozelle and Bowie Kuhn, he needs to do something about the NBA regular season.

Some demand to shorten the season. However, in the immortal words of Celtic Legend, "Cornbread" Maxwell (I paraphrase), "...and earn less money?" The Players' Union will cease to exist before the season is shortened.
Some, like Mark Heisler of the LA Times, call for the Conference Finals to be re-seeded in a 1-4 bracket. That is still boring.

The NBA - if it intends to be Great - needs to take a page from club soccer and make the sport a year-round event. Tournaments and Invitationals should break-up the "regular season." NBA teams should play European teams in 8-team invitationals. The FIBA World Cup and the Olympics should get more play. Heck, wouldn't it be great to see the bottom four of the NBA take on the NCAA Final Four? Now, that's must see-TV!


Sunday, June 03, 2007

A digression from baseball...

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Detroit Pistons 98-82 last night. Daniel Gibson had a great game, especially 19 points in the 4th quarter, 31 points on the night.

I'm not really a fan of the Cavaliers; I like the Wizards and Lakers. I am rooting for the the Cavs after the Wizards got out because of Lebron James. He runs the team and is so fun to watch. Lebron doesn't get recognized enough for making his teammates better. He usually gets recognized for his points.

I don't think that points make people great. I think their all around skills do. For example, Gilbert Arenas is popular all around DC for scoring 30 PPG, but does he make his teammates better? Antawn Jamison had his best games when Arenas was out, although Caron Butler pretty clearly was a better player when Arenas was in the lineup. The Wizards could be a much better team if they get a plan for going forward that makes sense. Any plan like that has to involve getting a productive big man. The Wizards have been without one for years, and they'll never take the next step without one. They don't need Tim Duncan, but they do need someone who can rebound, play good defense, and score when needed.

Right now their plan is to get the ball to the big 3, Gil, Caron, and Antawn. That's not bad, but it won't get them to the championship series. Last season, Caron and Gil were injured for like 1/3 or 1/4 of the season, maybe even more. We can't blame them for being bad late in the season, but we can ask what is the plan for the future? I don't see one. It's ridiculous; I just don't get it. I want your thoughts.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Further Adventures with Trivia

Last week's visit by the Dodgers has conspired with the previous post to create treacly feelings within regarding the career of Don Sutton. For those of you too young to remember Sutton was Tom Delay to Steve Garvey's Mitt Romney.
Sutton's career was not without significance. However, with regards towards Righties who started for the Dodgers, he only straddles the great divide that separates the likes of Drysdale and Hershiser from Ramon Martinez.
What is astonishing is how Sutton fit in within the parameters of success within his era. The Trivia Answer reveals that Sutton was remarkable for his durability - indeed, nos. 2 through 8 on the list are all occupied by pitchers from the late '60s through the 1970s.
What was it about the strengh of these pitcher's bodies that enabled such longetivity? Or, does responsibility for this statistical revelation lie within the minds of the managerial class?


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Trivia Answer

Most Career Games Started by a Pitcher (at the end of last season):

815 Cy Young
773 Nolan Ryan
756 Don Sutton
716 Phil Niekro
709 Steve Carlton
700 Tommy John
690 Gaylord Perry
685 Bert Blyleven
681 Jim Galvin
673 Greg Maddux
666 Walter Johnson
665 Warren Spahn
647 Tom Seaver
635 Tom Glavine


Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Most trivia regarding career numbers for a right-handed pitcher is dominated by Cy Young, so most everything is a race for second place. And most of these stats are dominated by pitchers who threw in the dead ball era.

Most career games started by a pitcher is a surprising exception. Check out the top 25 in this category. Answers tomorrow.

Good night and good luck.


What Do Brad Penny and Andrew Bynum Have in Common?

Brad Penny shut down the Nats last night. No great revelation there. However, Penny's success this season mirrors that of another outstanding power pitcher in the NL West, Jake Peavy.
Devoted readers of this blog will no doubt recall that Penny was acquired by the Dodgers to fulfill their aspirations of having a No. 1 starter in their rotation. Since that trade, Penny has taken his fair share of abuse for failing to live up to that reputation. Nonetheless, he is an excellent starting pitcher and he provides the Dodgers with a critical counter-weight in any late season matchups against Peavy and the Padres. While Peavy may be the more accomplished of the two starters, it must be reassuring to Dodger management (if not their fans) that they have someone who can at least provide a challenge to Peavy and the Padres and make them earn any late-season victories.
Of course, all of this is prelude to the real purpose of this post. The Lakers. We'll hold off on the Kobe Bryant melodrama for another day (or at least until Dr. Buss posts bail). However, the significance of a Peavy-Penny September matchup brings up the fact as to how the recent NBA Draft Lottery has tied the Lakers hands. Barring injury, Greg Oden should dominate the Western Conference playoffs for the next 10-15 years. For any team in the West to seriously challenge the Trailblazers they will need a center who can compete with Oden. Such persons are hard to find. Fortunately, the Lakers have one in Andrew Bynum.
However, Bynum is the likeliest candidate for trade to appease the "win with Kobe now" crowd.
Of such conundrums are headaches made. No wonder Dr. Buss was arrested for DUI.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Whither Ryan Zimmerman?

Yes, we know, that it's only May, but it's time to start thinking about a sophomore slump for Ryan Zimmerman. His line has dropped 50 points. Last year, his line was .287/.351/.471. This year it has dropped to .250/.305/.417. Especially troubling is the 50 point drop in OBP; it suggests that rather than learning to be more patient, Zimmerman is taking the bait of pitchers who don't see much reason to throw to a dangerous hitter in the midst of a substandard lineup.

Yes, it's only May, but Zimmerman has almost 200 at bats. That's more than enough to make this year so far a statistically significant sample.

Is this all $28 million buys you?

The $28 million man isn't going to earn his keep at this pace.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In appreciation of Ken Griffey Jr.

Here's what Manny Acta says in today's Post about Ken Griffey Jr.:

"He's just amazing. He's a guy that, no contest, if he wouldn't have gotten hurt and lost all those games, he probably would be chasing 800 home runs now."

Acta seems to be saying that had injuries not slowed him, Griffey would be neck-and-neck with Bonds in the home run race. Griffey was once thought of as the next Willie Mays, but his stock has taken a tumble as he has fallen prey to debilitating injuries over the past five years. It's commonly thought that the injuries kept him from becoming a latter-day Willie Mays, but is that really true?

I must admit that I was skeptical when I read Acta's comments, but I've got to say now that it's undoubtedly correct that Griffey would have compared favorably to Willie Mays had he played without injury, although he probably would not have approached a Bondsian level of performance.

Here are some of his career numbers from OPS+ is an adjusted OPS calculation normalized for the park effects and the league; it essentially expresses as a percentage the rate a player performs above or below league average, with 100 being average. The last column is my calculation of the number of the average number of at bats it took Griffey to hit a home run.


A few conclusions emerge from the data. First, Griffey is undeniably a great hitter, one of the game's best.

Second, his power gradually increased during the first few years of his career, and then dramatically improved beginning in 1993 and stayed generally consistent through 1998. Those were Griffey's best years and among the best years most hitters could ever hope to have.

Third, Griffey's power reached its peak in 1997 and began a slow decline in 1998 that reached its nadir in 2001. Interestingly, though, Griffey's OPS+ was fairly consistent throughout the rise and fall of his home run rate. It was below the level of the 1993-1997 years, but it was still well above the league average.

Fourth, Griffey appears now to be in the twilight years of his career. He's had a steep drop-off in both his home run and OPS+ rate, and he appears unlikely ever again to approach his power levels of even a few years ago.

Finally, had Griffey performed between 2000 and 2003 as he did in 1999 and 2004, he would have hit another 89 home runs, meaning that instead of 573 career home runs today, he would have 662. That's definitely at the level of Willie Mays, who hit 660 career home runs, but it's about 85 behind Barry Bonds. Given Griffey's greatness with the glove in center field, he probably would have been every bit the equal of Willie Mays had he not been injured.

But Barry Bonds? Sorry, Manny, but we don't think so.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Expect an expectations problem...

The Nationals lost 8-7 to the Reds last night, blowing leads of 6-0, 6-2, and 7-5. There is a lot of criticism to be levied for that, and much of it has rightly been aimed at Jon Rauch. Rauch gave up the ghost in the eighth when Javier Valentin, a .239 hitter with 40 career home runs, hit a three-run home run. Today's Post article notes that many, including Rauch himself, are taking Rauch to task for his poor performance.

We're certaintly not going to defend Rauch's gopheritis last night, but we do think that expectations may be a bit out of kilter. He had arguably his best year last year, posting an ERA of 3.35 in 91 innings and 85 appearances. His appearances last year should raise a red flag, though. Prior to last year, the most innings he had pitched in a single year was 30, and that was in 2005. That means that over the last two years he pitched in 100 games and logged 121 innings. That compares very unfavorably to his workload over the three years before that: in those three years, Rauch appeared in only 19 games and threw only 61 2/3 innings.

Will Rauch duplicate his 2006 success in 2007? Maybe, but he's on pace to appear in 85 games again this year. That's a lot of work for a reliever over the last few years, and it's possible that Rauch is running out of gas.

But more to the point, a lot is being expected of Rauch. He's throwing so many innings because the Nationals are depending on him to an extraordinary extent. He has become their primary set-up man.

Is our faith in him deserved? Rauch is a useful pitcher and should definitely be on the roster, but he's not a primary set-up guy for a contending team. His career ERA is almost 4.00, and heisn't the kind of dominating pitcher you'd like to see in the primary set-up role. He averaged almost 9 strikeouts per nine innings last year, which is a phenomenal rate, but his career rate is closer to 6, which is where he is so far this season.

Don't get us wrong--we like Rauch. But if the Nationals were a well-run baseball organization, they'd have a guy like Jonathan Broxton, primary set-up man for the Dodgers. Broxton's numbers are out of this world. He has an ERA of 1.13, has allowed about one baserunner per inning, and is averaging about one strikeout per inning. And, get this, he's earning only $390,000 this year.

There a lot of good pitchers out there, and hopefully the Nationals are cultivating talent that one day will populate their bullpen. Until then, we'll continue to ask too much of guys like Jon Rauch.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jekyll and Bowden

We just got finished saying that Jim Bowden made a great trade in getting Austin Kearns, Felipe LOpez, and Ryan Wagner from the Reds for Gary Majewski. Now that we've let that linger for a few hours, it's time to bring our views of Bowden back down to earth.

On Saturday Darrell Rasner was the Yankees' starting pitcher. He threw all of nine pitches before Endy Chavey hit a shot back at the box that broke Rasner's finger. You can see the play here. Rasner is now out for 3 months.

You may remember the name "Darrell Rasner" because he pitched for the Nationals in 2005. Bowden put Rasner on waivers for reasons that are known only to him. Rasner pitched well for the Yankees last year after a September call up and put himself in position to crack the starting rotation this year, which he did after the team's rotation imploded.

Rasner isn't the next Roger Clemens, but he's got some promise. Why would a team like the Nationals who need live arms let one go? We need to be stockpiling good arms, not squandering them on the waiver wire.

You think?

The Post reports today that the Nationals fleeced the Reds in the Kearns/Majewski trade. That is the understatement of the century. Gary Majewski is mired in the minors and shoulder tendinitis may keep him and his now underperforming fastball there for a long time.

So, in exchange for a guy the Reds haven't been able to use, the Nationals got Austin Kearns, who has proven what we thought we already knew--he is a good, professional hitter. Analyzing that part of the trade is obvious--in a Majewski for Kearns swap, the Nationals clearly got the better of the deal.

But we probably disagree with a lot of people regarding the other players the Nationals got in the trade. We don't think much of Felipe Lopez. His career line is not great(.260/.330/.404), although it's pretty good for a shortstop. The problem is that no one wanted to use him as a shortstop because his defense is substandard. As a second basemen, he's not such a defensive liability, but his offensive output relative to other second basemen makes him more of an offensive liability. And his defense isn't so great to compensate for those offensive problems. That's especially true in RFK, where Lopez is bound to underperform his career numbers. He sure is so far this year (.239/.292/.339).

On the other hand, we think getting Ryan Wagner was a good move, even if Wagner hasn't done much yet. Wagner is one of those guys who looks like a closer, but never quite is able to play the part. Chances are that he won't fit the bill, but then how many young closers in waiting turn out to be full timers? Not many, but why not take the chance? It wasn't like the Nationals were giving up a lot, and they're a team that needs to take chances on younger talent.

Of course, all of this could change if the Reds win their grievance against the Nationals, which asserts that Jim Bowden knew that Majewski was injured before he traded him, but failed to disclose that to the Reds. We assume that the Nats will win the grievance because we can't believe Bowden would be so stupid to do what the Reds accuse him of doing. This is the same guy, after all, who wouldn't trade Alfonso Soriano because he thought the price he was offered was too low and making the trade for that price would harm his credibility with other clubs. Maybe so (although we think he should have made a trade), but if you're so worried about your credibility that you won't make a trade that gives you something when you otherwise will be left with nothing, why would you be deliberately dishonest?

Well, anything is possible, I guess. This is Jim Bowden, after all.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

We know, we know--we're bad!

Two depressing facts from the Elias Sports Bureau:

• Ryan Church's three-run double was the key hit in Washington's 6-4 victory over Atlanta. Entering the game, the Nationals were batting .135 with the bases loaded this season, the second-lowest average in the major leagues, ahead of only San Diego (.094).

• Washington used seven pitchers in the game, the fourth time in the major leagues this season that a team used as many as seven pitchers in a nine-inning victory. The Nationals have accounted for two of those four instances; Manny Acta used seven pitchers on April 4 against Florida, resulting in the first major-league victory of his managerial career.

John Smoltz: Baseball Elder

You have to check out this interview with John Smoltz. The interview begins at the 9:28 mark. His comments about the Nationals, the Braves' transformation from a bad to a great team, and Ryan Zimmerman's development are remarkably interesting and insightful. Smoltz will make a great GM one day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When the Audacity of Hope Fades

2007 will go down as the year that the Lerner/Kasten Regime began its top-to-bottom review of what the organization has today and what it needs to be successful next year and beyond.

With 40 games under its belt, we now know the Washington Nationals to be a .350 team, despite their admirable .500 performance in the last 10 games. We know that with a quarter of the season passed, the Nats are baseball's worst-hitting team. We also know that, unlike last year, the Nats have no individual stars on offense. How bad is it without Soriano? Consider this: no Nat even appears in the National League's top 20 in the major offensive categories of R, HR, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS. Incredibly, only one Nat -- Ryan Church -- appears in the NL's top 40 in these categories (clocking in at 21st for OBP and 39th for OPS).

With performance like this, it takes a certain audacity to believe in the Nats this year and to hope that the current starting eight will develop into major offensive contributors next year and beyond. With the exception of the promise of Ryan Zimmerman, it is hard to believe that any Nat has a realistic chance of being an above-league-average offensive player and that anyone except Church and Austin Kearns will be league-average producers. (Yes, we know that Nick Johnson lurks in the background, but we'll deal with him soon enough!)

While the Nats' pitchers have been marginally more effective, there is no one on the current roster who projects as anything better than a third or fourth starter on a competitive team, and no Philip Hughes-equivalent waiting in the Nats' minor-league teams.

Is it time to re-start a sustained drumbeat to drive Bowden out of his job? It's tough to see why not. Bowden in 2007 is a known quantity, and he no longer deserves the ability to use otherwise legitimate excuses about the team's poor performance -- ownership uncertainty, long-term franchise neglect -- to justify a future in Washington.

Bowden's tenure in Washington -- granted, under unique and difficult circumstances in 2005-06 -- is poor. The Nats were worse in 2006 than 2005. And 2007 is quickly shaping up to be worse than 2006. More troubling, though, is that Bowden's Nats today have fewer league-average-or-better players and fewer promising such prospects than at any time since the team arrived in DC. We know the plan has been to develop young talent internally and through strategic trades, but today there are no indications that Bowden is successfully implementing that plan. And, off the field, Bowden embarrassed the organization with his DUI arrest last year.

Bowden's tenure in Cincinnati also was, ultimately, a failure. While he ran the Reds for 10.5 years, he only had one playoff birth to show for his efforts -- in 1995, when the Reds had the NL's second-highest payroll and won the NL Central but lost in the NLCS. By 2003, the Reds fired Bowden, tiring of the Reds' poor performance under his stewardship and of his antics. Bowden appeared to sew his fate in Cincinnati when, less than a year after 9/11, and with MLB and the Players' Association in the middle of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, Bowden unforgivably suggested that if the players "do walk out, make sure it's Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do." Bowden followed up that chestnut with a lame and insincere apology.

We're not trying to suggest that Bowden is the worst GM ever, but there's no longer any compelling reason to keep him as the Nats' GM, if there ever was one. Bowden's got a proven track record of mediocrity, and his personal antics at times have made him a distraction and an embarrassment to his employers. Why, under those circumstances, should he continue to receive the benefit of the doubt, especially when there are so many other promising GM candidates who would love to work for the Nats -- a team with low short-term expectations, solid upper management, a new stadium coming online and a fan base that is too young to be jaded?

The Nats and Bowden have been selling their fans on the audacity of hope since 2005. Yet what we lack are any tangible signs to be hopeful. We can't do anything to significantly upgrade the player talent base in the short term. Yet ditching Bowden and hiring a Paul DePodesta (an Alexandria, VA native) or another promising GM would be the easiest and most effective move the Nats could make to restore a little hope.

What does Jimbo have up his sleeve?

From Bill Ladson's chat:

Do the Nats regret not re-signing Alfonso Soriano? Soriano is a five-tool player.
-- David M., Washington, D.C.

I don't think they regret it at all. There was no way they were going to sign Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million deal. I agree with "The Plan." They have to address their Minor League system. That does not mean, however, they are not trying to improve their Major League team. When the club was in San Diego, general manager Jim Bowden said he was looking to trade for a slugger, which they desperately need.

We agree with almost everything Ladson says. Of course, passing on a $136 million deal for Soriano was a no-brainer, but failing to deal him last season wasn't.

But here is our main point: a "slugger"? The Nationals definitely need one, actually a few, but who are they going to trade to get one? Assuming Bowden means a legitimate slugger and not a retread like Preston Wilson (remember that allegedly great trade?), there isn't a whole lot the Nationals have to give. We'll stay tuned, but we're skeptical.

Just how bad is the Nationals' offense?

Pretty bad.

We've talked a lot about how this season has produced a few pleasant surprises on the Nationals' pitching staff. We haven't talked much about any pleasant surprises among Nationals hitters. There is a good reason for that--there aren't any.

Think about it this way: only four Nationals hitters with more than 50 plate appearances have a VORP (value over replacement player) higher than Shawn Hill. That's Shawn Hill the hitter, not the pitcher. HIll's VORP as a hitter is 1.1; only Ryan Church (10.5), Austin Kearns (5.7), Dimitri Young (1.7), and Brian Schneider (1.3) have higher VORP scores than Hill.

You think that's bad? It gets worse. Only two Nationals hitters have positive PMLV scores. PMLV stands for Positional Marginal Lineup Value; it measures the runs a hitter contributes beyond what an average player at the same position would produce in a team of otherwise league-average hitters. In other words, it measures whether a positional player is adding anything offensively beyond what you could get at the same position off the proverbial baseball street. PMLV is more useful than VORP because there are some positions--first base, for example--from which we expect significant offensive production. It doesn't do much good to have a hitter playing first base who produces only a marginally positive VORP when good first basemen are producing VORP scores well over zero. As we'll soon see, this is a particular problem for the Nationals at first base.

Only two Nationals hitters with more than 50 plate appearances have positive PMLV scores--Ryan Church (5.4) and Austin Kearns (2.0). The rest have scores that are abysmal:

Brian Schneider-1.1
Dimitri Young-2.6
Ronnie Belliard-3.3
Ryan Zimmerman-5.3
Felipe Lopez-6.6

Although Brian Schneider and Dimitri Young have positive VORP scores, their offensive production is materially worse than an average player at their positions.

These statistics are truly depressing. The Nationals are fielding positive offensive contributors at only two positions--center and right field--and even there the positive contributions aren't great. At every other position the team is fielding a player whose production is worse than what the team could get from just an average player. It doesn't take a baseball genius to realize that you aren't going to win many games with that kind of paltry production.

We said before that there haven't been any pleasant surprises among Nationals hitters. That was a bit of an exaggeration; sometimes as we try to write with a flourish our words get out in front of our meaning. Anyway, watch Jesus Flores. He's had only 33 plate appearances, but his VORP is 3.0, and we think he could be a material upgrade from Brian Schneider. If the Nationals were smart, they would find a way to trade Schneider for a minor leaguer and give Flores a chance to prove himself.

It's possible to argue that Ryan Church has been a pleasant surprise, but what we've seen in the past is pretty much what we're going to get from him. We don't mean to suggest that Church isn't a useful player. He is, but he's probably more of a fourth outfielder than a starter on a contending team.

And, please, spare us any talk of Cristian Guzman's performance this far. Yes, his PMLV score is 1.1, but he's had only 37 plate appearances, and we're confident that his production by the end of the season will be solidly negative.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A star emerges? How about a good pitcher?

We said yesterday that we would learn a lot about Jason Bergmann in games like last night's game against the Braves. Bergmann has pitched well this season, but he needs to be consistently good against good teams before he can assume the mantle of a #4 or #3 starter.

Well, we learned a lot about Bergmann after last night's stellar performance. Bergmann was flawless for seven innings, taking a no-hitter into the eighth. Brian McCann had the temerity to break up the no-hitter with a solo homerun, but Bergmann finished the eighth with the Nats up 2-1. Amazingly, this was Bergmann's first win despite the fact that he has been the Nationals' best pitcher.

We realize that being "the Nationals' best pitcher" isn't exactly a crowning achievement, but for a guy who in spring training was a baseball unknown to anyone outside his immediate family, that's quite a success story.

Bergmann's stats are lights out. His ERA is 2.76, he's allowing only one base runner per inning, and hitters are whiffing against him (.162/.253/.306). If anything, Bergmann has been too good, meaning that he can't continue at this pace indefinitely. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .183, which is shockingly low and unsustainable. Still, we're not talking about someone whose performance suggests his ERA will balloon to 5. Bergmann has pitched well enough to be considered a real prospect for a rotation spot well into the future of this team. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Speaking of another success story, Cristian Guzman was 2-4 with another triple. He now has two triples in two games, which is one-third the total he had in all of 2005. Shockingly, Guzman's line is pretty good: .323/.364/.452. Don't get used to this, though, because Guzman has had only 31 at bats. We're confident we'll soon see the Cristian we all know and loathe.

Jesus Colome got the save in place of Chad Cordero. [Full disclosure--I just picked up Colome in my fantasy league and now want him to get gobs of saves.] Colome has pitched well this season, but he's got a long way to go before we can say he's a good pitcher. His walks per nine innings are way too high, and he walks as many batters as he strikes out per nine innings (5.47). That's not a recipe for long-term success.