Mike Rizzo has odd ideas about why the Nationals are losing

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Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wrote a column yesterday about how the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo are “not looking for scapegoats” following a 21-27 start.

Much of the article is about how they’ve dealt with lots of injuries to key players and about how Rizzo is “satisfied” with the performance of manager Jim Riggleman and hitting coach Rick Eckstein, but then there’s this piece that caught my eye:

Rizzo says there is only one problem with his club. “We’re playing terrific baseball except for the fact that we’re struggling with runners in scoring position,” Rizzo says. …

“Am I happy with the won-loss record? No. But I think it’s really based on us not hitting with runners in scoring position, getting the big hit. I hope that turns around. We’re played good enough baseball to be way better than our record indicates.”

What an odd thing to focus on.

Washington is hitting .230 with a .663 OPS overall, compared to .228 with a .697 OPS with runners in scoring position. In other words, they’ve actually been slightly better with runners in scoring position. Obviously the Nationals would have more wins if they were hitting, say, .328 with runners in scoring position, but when a team bats .230 overall and .228 with runners in scoring position pointing to that as the problem is silly.

As for the notion that the Nationals should be “way better than our record indicates” … well, that’s off base too. Washington would certainly be better if Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and now Adam LaRoche weren’t injured, but their actual performance has been every bit as bad as their record so far. They’ve been outscored by 18 runs in 48 games, which all things being equal projects to a 22-26 record. And they’re 21-27.

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.