National Insecurity: Previewing the Washington series

Hinch... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Diamondback. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds (that'll be LA), to seek out new fans and new NL pennants - to boldly go where no man has gone before!

It seems appropriate today sees the new Star Trek film open [Monday to the Imax for us!], since it is not the only franchise trying to re-invent itself this weekend. With a new captain at the helm, the USS Diamondback bravely sets off, with renewed hope of a better tomorrow and a goal of defeating the evil Dodgeran Empire, who have now lost their most ferocious warrior. Set phasers to 'runs' and hope we get a lot of WARP from our roster. Sheesh, I feel making sabermetric Trek jokes may have set new standards for sheer nerdiness.

Ok, enough with the geek overkill. A nice present for new manager AJ Hinch: three games at home, against the worst side in the National League. That said, last night Washington did manage to win in Los Angeles, something the rest of the NL West, including the Diamondbacks, failed to do in twelve attempts, so credit to them for that . Especially for coming back from a 6-0 first inning deficit, plundering ten runs off the Dodgers' pen. Hopefully, we'll see a couple more evenings like that over the weekend, and help foster a growing sense of doom and futility in Chavez Ravine. Or as it shall now be known, Manny's-got-no-Wood.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah: the Nationals. It's the pitching which has been their fatal flaw so far, their staff posting an ERA of 5.40, the worst in the National League to date and resulting in an OPS+ of just 82. The starters haven't exactly been great, with a 5.20 ERA, but it's the bullpen who have really blown things up. Their ERA thus far has been 5.72, and Washington are the only outfit in the league to be above five from their relief corps - Arizona, at exactly 5.00, are the next highest, but it's a long way behind the Nationals. That's why they have a record of 1-8 this year - last night's contest was the first victory the Washington bullpen had posted this year, 26 games in. And it still wasn't pretty, as they allowed eight hits, a walk and three runs in three innings.

At the plate, however, things have been a great deal better - to the extent that the lowest OPS+ posted by anyone with 50+ at-bats, is the 119 by second-baseman Anderson Hernandez. That's a number, with any number of at-bats, only Justin Upton reaches for the Diamondbacks. The Nats offensive numbers go up from there, all the way to a familiar face at the top: Adam Dunn, who makes his return to Chase Field sporting a .290/.445/.559 line (a 160 OPS+), having hit seven homers and driven in 23 runs. It'll be interesting to see what kind of reaction he gets from the AZ crowd tonight: could be good, could be bad, could be complete apathy. I lean towards the last of these options, unless a lot of people miss Micah Owings [and we should get to see him on Tuesday, when he starts for the Reds]

All told, we have a team who can't hit but can pitch (that's be us), facing a team who can't pitch but can hit (the Nationals). They always say "good pitching will beat good hitting," but this series should hopefully establish what happens when bad pitching faces bad hitting. I reckon the Diamondbacks will get a bit of a boost from their new manager, and I'm thinking we'll take two out of the three games scheduled for the weekend. If we don't, then we'd probably better start hoping there are 24 other suspensions imminently scheduled for the Dodgers' roster...

Couple of minor points to note. Remember Emilio Bonifacio's torrid start to the season, hitting .500 in the first week? And how people were bemoaning we'd lost another Quentin? Now...not so much. Since April 15, he is hitting .165, and is likely not long for the starting line-up, and possibly even the roster. Finally, Jason Trumpy from True Blue Brew Blog, gave me a heads-up on the Wikipedia entry for Brian Gorman, the third-base umpire who became Tony Clark's bestest friend forever in Milwaukee. It now says, "On May 1st, 2009, Gorman forgot what a foul ball looks like." Citation needed... :-)

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