Losing Efforts 8/7 - 8/20/2010

Dodgers defeat Nationals 3-2 on August 7, 2010 at Dodgers Stadium

What Went Wrong

Adam Kennedy tried to pick James Loney off first by throwing the ball to Matt Kemp.

Did it Matter

I find it a little odd that Adam Kennedy is the player I have spent the most time writing about when looking back at one run losses. Ian Desmond made 34 errors, but I believe I have only written about a couple of them thus far. The Nationals enjoyed making errors last season. I can think of no other way to describe their affinity for the error other than they just liked them. This brings up the question now of if there is such a thing as clutch fielding. My inclination is to say no that it is just one of those things that happen. Some errors end up being more costly than others due to factors outside of the fielder's control. But Adam Kennedy has been mentioned a lot and he said himself that the pressure of not playing every day and rust from sitting on the bench got to him. So, maybe if Adam Kennedy had been the starting second baseman all year he wouldn't have felt the pressure to prove himself and would have made fewer errors.

Missed Opportunities

The Nationals were not a team that got the little things right, and those little things matter much more in one run games. They had issues with catching the ball, throwing the ball, making contact, and bunting. Livan Hernandez is one of the pitchers I like to see most at the plate, but in 2010 he went through a stretch when he just couldn't get a bunt down. This was one of those games. It might not have mattered as Bernadina would have still been batting with two outs, but instead of runners on first and second it would have been runners on second and third. This might have had some impact on how the pitcher pitched the hitter and how the defense aligned. Any little difference in the game of baseball can have a big impact on the outcome of a game.

Difference Making

Except for Sean Burnett in the tenth inning the Nationals bullpen was lights out. If Adam Kennedy doesn't throw the ball away then maybe the Dodgers never score the second run that ends up tying the game. This is one of those plays where Kennedy made a split second decision. He saw someone standing at first and assumed it was Adam Dunn. He didn't have much time to think and threw the ball. Maybe this isn't Kennedy's fault. Maybe a better first baseman knows to run back to the bag after the throw from the outfield is cut-off. I can't really say if Espinosa wouldn't have made the same decision or a better first baseman returns to the bag in a more timely manner. Sometimes a team plays its best and still loses. The Nationals didn't play their best in this game, but they were close to it, and these kinds of losses happen.

Braves defeat Nationals 3-2 on August 18, 2010 at Turner Field

What Went Wrong

Nothing

Did it Matter

Tim Hudson and Livan Hernandez had a good old fashioned pitcher's duel and the Braves were simply the better team on this day. The Nationals played the best game they could and lost.

Missed Opportunities

I hate watching the Nationals play against a sinker ball pitcher. At times it feels like every time a batter can sneak a ball through the infield or nurse a walk they are immediately erased on a double play, and the Nationals had four in this game. The other big difference in this game was Livan Hernandez walked two batters in the inning he gave up his runs. If a pitcher is going to allow a base runner they should do everything in their power to make them earn their way on base, but on the other side of that it was a good effort by Livan to get out of a bases loaded no out jam only giving up two runs.

Difference Making

Depending on who replaces Dunn at first the Nationals should be a team that puts more balls in play in 2011 than they did in 2010. Not sure how much of a difference that would have made in this game as double plays were the issue and maybe if the Nationals didn't put so many balls in play in this game they might have had a better shot of winning. I look at the Nationals line-up for next season and it has the potential to be deeper than the 2010 line-up, but that doesn't mean it will be better.

Phillies defeat Nationals 1-0 on August 20, 2010 at Citizens Bank Park

What Went Wrong

Roy Halladay decided he hates FIP and wanted to show how a real pitcher pitches with a ton of base runners. Despite out hitting the Phillies 10-4 the Nationals lose 1-0.

Did it Matter

When a team is facing a pitcher the caliber of Roy Halladay when they have a chance to score runs they have to. Leaving 12 men on base and going 0-11 with RISP is inexcusable.

Missed Opportunities

Raul Ibanez's double that scored the only run of the game might not have been a double if the Nationals had even an average first baseman. The ball was close enough so that a good or average first baseman should have either been able to make a play on it or at least keep the ball in the infield. This however was not the worst missed opportunity of this game. In the first inning the Nationals got a runner to third with no outs and then after a fly out by Ian Desmond and back to back walks, Roger Bernadina grounded into a double play to end the threat. When facing a pitcher like Roy Halladay every opportunity should be treated like the only opportunity the team will get. With Nyjer Morgan on third and a fly ball hit to center field the third base coach should make the same decision they would make in a 0-0 game in the 9th inning. If they think a fast runner has a chance to make it home they should send them. I have to say Listach is smart enough to know this and Morgan most likely had no shot to score on Desmond's fly out. The other thing is that the pitcher is Roy Halladay. Maybe he felt more comfortable facing Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse with the bases loaded than facing Dunn and Zimmerman with a runner on third, and while not walking them on purpose he was not opposed to the idea in order to avoid giving up a run. The Nationals had other chances to score, but none were as great as their opportunity in the first, and like I said before when facing Roy Halladay it might be best to pretend every inning is the 9th and runs simply mean that much.

Difference Making

The biggest difference in the Nationals between 2011 and 2010 is hopefully going to be a better defensive team that is also more athletic. Looking through the inning by inning rundown of this game it is very clear the Nationals just couldn't take the extra base. They had a great number of back to back singles with 1 out, but simply weren't able to get runners to third. A better base running team might have been able to at least force the issue and get an extra runner or two to third base with less than 2 outs. The defensive difference is important for a more obvious reason. If Adam Dunn had been able to simply keep Ibanez's double in the infield the Phillies likely don't score, and in a bullpen vs. bullpen matchup I am taking the Nationals.

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