Ah, the Nats...baseball's cure to a losing streak. Or at least that's what they used to be. While it would take some serious tanking to place behind them this year, the Nationals are steadily improving. And in a series in which one team will call on Oliver Perez and the other will come back with Livan Hernandez, anything can and will happen.
Jerry Manuel said he'll play the hot hand in center, favoring consecutive starts to game-by-game decisions. Coming from Manuel, I should probably assume the opposite, but for optimisms sake, I'm predicting Pagan. Castillo will miss tomorrow with a calf injury he sustained stealing a base on Opening Day. Color me surprised: Castillo's legs are acting up from day one. I won't rehash moves not made, though, as I'm trying to divorce my enjoyment of watching this team from the harrowing knowledge of how it was built. Tejada's start will be an important one too, as it will be his last shot to impress before Reyes returns (!) Saturday. Too bad that we won't get to see Tejada and Reyes in the same infield, reminiscent of the Chavez-Beltran-Gomez outfield. Mike Pelfrey probably dreams about that kind of infield. Or driving tractors.
- Angel Pagan-CF
- Alex Cora-2B
- David Wright-3B
- Jason Bay-LF
- Mike Jacobs-1B
- Jeff Francoeur-RF
- Rod Barajas-C
- Ruben Tejada-SS
- Big Pelf-P
- Nyjer Morgan-CF
- Willie Harris-RF
- Ryan Zimmerman-3B
- Adam Dunn-1B
- Josh Willingham-LF
- Adam Kennedy-2B
- Ivan Rodriguez-C
- Ian Desmond-SS
- Garret Mock-P
Scouting report: You have probably heard by now that Mike Pelfrey didn't get any help from his fielders in 2009. Luis Castillo is getting cited so often as the reason for Pelf's struggles, however, that it has almost become more of an excuse than an explanation. Yes, the defense hurt Pelfrey, but it hurt all the Mets' pitchers, and Pelfrey didn't exactly pitch well. One explanation, besides poor fielding, could be hitters sitting on his two-seam fastball. The pitch generated more groundballs in 2009, but it was overall less effective. Better secondary pitches could enable Pelfrey to not have to "reverse engineer" strikeouts or pitch to contact in hitters counts. Last year, Pelfrey's slider, which breaks in the opposite direction of his two-seamer, improved as a good weapon against righties. This offseason, Pelfrey touted the development of a third pitch, a splitter, which if effective, would go a long way toward fixing his stark platoon split.
- Adam Dunn--He hits fastballs well. Go figure.
- Ian Desmond--The two youngsters have only met 6 PA, but Desmond is 3-6 so far with a HR.
- Ivan Rodriguez--Just the sight of the living legend has been known to give pitchers the yips.
Scouting report: Keith aptly identified Mock as a diamond in the rough during the broadcast yesterday. Even more so than Pelfrey, ERA seriously underrates Mock. While in 132 innings, he has a 5.17 ERA, his career tERA is just 4.09. Mock does a lot well: he gets strikeouts, he gets groundballs, and he suppresses homeruns. His control has been an issue in his young career (4.56 BB/9 and 13 wild pitches). Mock has also been inexplicably prone to high BABIPs and low LOB%s, two traditional indicators of bad luck, throughout his pro-career. Maybe there's just something hittable about his pitches, although low LD-rates suggest otherwise. His repertoire centers around secondary offerings, including a good changeup, a decent slider, and a 12-6 curveball with potential. Like Robertson, he's nobody to sleep on, but beatable.
- Jeff Francoeur--In 7 PA against Mock, Frenchman is 0-7 with 2 Ks. Not the biggest sample size, I know, but it's easy to see how this game could be a test for the "new, disciplined" Jeff--an erratic power-pitcher with a tempting fastball and dangerous off-speed stuff.
- Mike Jacobs--Hey, Mike, it's righty with a hittable fastball. Hit that 600-foot homer early, because you won't see anything but changeups the second time through the order.
Things to Watch for
It's all about Pelf. The Mets need a big season out of the big guy in order to compete. If the pitches finally come around, a breakout is possible.