Does Jim Riggleman feature in the Nats' future?

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Chico Harlan notes that the Nats have sorted out most of their big issues for 2009: the Dominican Republic signing bonus scandal, Jim Bowden getting fired, Manny Acta getting fired, the draft, signing Strasburg, and making Mike Rizzo permanent.  Now all they have left to do is to figure out if Jim Riggleman gets the “interim” tag taken off his title:

Under Riggleman, the Nats are 18-20. They’ve been streaky. They just wrapped up a disappointing 1-5 homestand. But just to put Washington’s improvement in perspective, the team didn’t win its 18th game under Acta until June 17 — a night when the record improved to 18-46.

It’s a bit premature, I know. But I’ll ask anyway.

Chico “asks” whether Riggleman should be brought back in poll form.  I’ll opine: nah.  Nothing personal against Riggleman, but the improvement since he was hired is likely more evidence that this is not as terrible a Nats team as it appeared under Manny Acta than it is evidence that Jim Riggleman is a miracle worker. Yes, near-.500 ball is impressive from this group, but can anyone (paging NBC Washington’s Chris Needham!) point out what Riggleman has done that is so special?  Special enough to overlook his historically ho-hum presence on the multiple teams he has managed?  More special than the roster cleaning and restructuring that Rizzo has done to fix what was a horribly-constructed team at the start of the season?

Above all of that is the sense that the Nats really and truly (a) need to make sure they have a manager in place that has a track record of working well with and developing young talent, especially pitching talent; and (b) need to inject some sort of excitement into this team that will motivate people to actually, you know, buy tickets to watch these guys as they get better.

That’s a tough combo.  Usually the big colorful Billy Martin-type managers are guys who don’t do too well with kids because, hey, they don’t have to.  But it’s worth seeking out, and for that reason I think the Nats should offer Riggleman a hearty thank you, a nice coaching job, and look onward into the future with another man at the helm.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.