A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Offense: A potential lineup: Cristian Guzman-2B, Nyjer Morgan-CF, Ryan Zimmerman-3B, Adam Dunn-1B, Josh Willingham-LF, Ivan Rodriguez-C, Ian Desmond-SS, Roger Bernadina-RF. Bench: Adam Kennedy-IF, Willie Harris-OF.
This is the first time the White Sox will play against the Washington Nationals. I am still bitter about the end of the Montreal Expos. Until Jeff Loria sells the Marlins, I will harbor a pointless grudge against them. Because I am strange. But back to the Nationals. Cristian Guzman! Long time no see! How have you been since 2004? The unsurprising answer is bad. With the exception of 2008 (3.1 WAR), Christian has been the player he was for the Twins. Teenage U-God was apparently terrible at recognizing talent, because I remembered him being better. His speed has long since abandoned him, and his gap power has begun to do the same. He should not be leading off and his defense at second has been slightly below average (small sample size). If Nyjer Morgan's BABIP would get back to it's normal lofty height (.344 career), he could be moved into the leadoff spot and fix the Guzman problem. Morgan broke out last year with a .340 wOBA, 42 steals, and a 39.4 UZR in center. This season has not been so kind to him, though you have to expect his BABIP and UZR to rebound. Once his hits start falling in, he'll start looking good again. For someone as fast as he is (7.5 Spd), he sucks at stealing bases (67.3% career). And he does a pretty good Carl Weathers impersonation. Ryan Zimmerman is the best thirdbaseman in the National League. The power and the eye are very real, as is the ridiculous defense. The main reason I'm happy to see the Nats begin to contend is that it always sucked for Ryan Zimmerman to be so good on such a bad team. He finally has weapons around him and the rotation is beginning to come around. Enjoy it Ryan. Depending on how well the team is doing in July, Adam Dunn may be enjoying his second to last month in D.C. He is also the baseball player I would least like to have run into me at home plate. Carlos Santana, thank you for living my nightmare for me. The Big Donkey NEEDS to move to the American League and become a DH, because his defense is horrific (-19.8 UZR). His OPS will continue to be in the .900s, and if a pitcher makes a mistake he will gladly turn it into a souvenir.
When did Josh Willingham get this good? In fact, when you look at the 3-4-5 hitters in this lineup, you get the best middle of the order in baseball. And this is happening in Washington. The large spike in his BB% is probably not going to hold up, but it wouldn't be shocking if he did develop some better patience. This could be his first 30 homer, 100 RBI year. Not bad for a guy who was the fifth outfielder last season. Pudge Rodriguez has been playing major league baseball since before I was in kindergarten. I just graduated college last month. Let that soak in. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer seems to have decided to end his career in the nation's capitol, though he'll most likely sign a one-day contract with the Texas Rangers when he's finally ready to hang it up. Thanks to a .383 BABIP, Ivan is looking like he used to. While he is destined to regress, he'll still post a better season than he has since 2006 as long as he doesn't get hurt. His power is all but gone, but he can still throw runners out. Ian Desmond is one of the young bucks that the Nationals are hoping can turn the team around. He hasn't been drawing walks like he did in the minors, which has resulted in him batting so low in the order. He has enough power hit 30 doubles and anywhere from 10-16 homeruns, with steals in the teens as well. From what I've read, he's good defensively. He should become a second-tier shortstop over the next few seasons. Roger Bernadina is a speedy outfielder who plays great defense. If he draws walks like he did in the minors and continues to benefit from the higher BABIP fast players tend to have, he could become a leadoff man down the road. As is, he's a nice cost-controlled outfielder to have on a team going in the right direction.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: John Lannan-LHP, Livan Hernandez-RHP, Luis Atilano-RHP, Stephen Strasburg-RHP OF DOOM, J.D. Martin-RHP, and Matt Capps-CL.
John Lannan has suffered from the bad luck of being the nominal ace of the staff the past few seasons. Thanks to the Uber-Mensch, those days are now over. With Jordan Zimmerman coming back next season, Lannan can drop to third in the rotation, a place much more fitting of his talents. You do have to admire a man who would hit Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in his first major league game though. He is a groundballer who walks far too many hitters (3.5 BB/9 career). The lefty throws a high-80s fastball, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. His changeup is his plus pitch. Don't let the 2.94 ERA fool you, Livan Hernandez is just as terrible as you remember him being (5.16 FIP). The tubby Cuban has benefited from an unsustainable BABIP (.245) and HR/9 (.84). I wish we could be the team to help bring him back to Earth, but alas, we'll miss him by one game. He throws a mid-80s fastball, a slider, a curve, and a change. Luis Atilano has not had an easy start to his big league career. He's a right-handed Lannan, with an inferior changeup. When Scott Olsen is healthy, he'll leave the rotation. Remember the Public Enemy song Don't Believe the Hype? Chuck D was clearly not talking about Stephen Strasburg. What can I say about the Next Big Thing that hasn't already been said? Nothing, so I'll skip the hyperbole and go straight to his pitches. He throws a powerful upper-90s fastball that routinely touches triple digits, a diabolical curveball, and an improving changeup. It would be fantastic if we could give him his first loss today. J.D. Martin could be a capable back-of-the-rotation starter. His minor league numbers are pretty decent, and he seems to get his fair share of strikeouts. He throws a high-80s fastball, a mid-80s cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. The cutter seems to have promise. We'll see him Saturday. Matt Capps came to Washington after being non-tendered by the Pirates this offseason. He's been pretty good this season, despite his .353 BABIP. Capps has a low-to-mid-90s fastball, and a decent slider and changeup.
Outlook: Our recent good fortune has got me seeing things in a positive manner. 2-1 series win.