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Mulligan!

The Nats duck-hooked one into the woods last night, dropping the opener of the weekend Pittsburgh series in frustrating fashion, 7-4. As Beltway Boys notes, the debut of Kearns and Lopez in the old curly-w's was rather inauspicious: the two combined to go 0-7 with an error and about 643 runners stranded on the bases.

Oh well. If this were football, I'd be concerned; however, it's not football, so I'm not concerned. It's baseball, and a big league baseball season spans 162 games. Not every game will be a successful one for a single player, much less a duo, and I ascribe no significance to the two players having simultaneous bad games in their first night as Nats. It's still a good trade.

After matching their season high of 15 games under the .500 mark, the Nats try to right the ship yet again. Does Pedro Astacio inspire confidence toward that end? Well, suu . . . not really. But you never know; he's had two starts, and one of them (July 3 versus Florida) was very good.

The Pirates start Ian Snell for tonight's contest. The Buccos, at 31-60, are on pace for 55 wins, and Snell, at 8-6 (4.74 ERA), in on pace for 14 of those. Not exactly Carlton-in-'72-esque, I realize, but I suppose it seems sort of noteworthy.

Just for the heck of it, here's all of the teams that have lost 100 or more games since 1990 (sounds like a nice, arbitrary endpoint), along with the number of games won by each team's top winner:

TEAM      WINS      "ACE"
KC05 56 8
AZ04 51 16
KC04 58 9
DT03 43 9
ML02 61 11
DT02 55 8
TB02 55 8
KC02 62 17
PT01 62 11
TB01 62 11
FL98 54 11
DT96 53 7
NYM93 59 12
SD93 61 15
CL91 57 10

Some notes:

The pitcher most meeting that "ace" description above is in real life an historically elite "ace," Randy Johnson, who also put together the most impressive performance---16 wins (against 14 losses) for the 51-win Diamondbacks in 2004. What a season: 171 ERA+, 0.900 WHIP, 290 strikeouts in 245.2 innings pitched.

The big winner among these guys was Paul Byrd, who won 17 games for the '02 Royals, parlaying the performance into a nice contract and a return trip to Atlanta. However, it should be noted that those Royals barely qualified, finishing with exactly 100 losses.

The other 15-game-winner is probably the third-best pitcher on the list (in terms of career value), Andy Benes of the '93 Padres. The second-best, Dwight Gooden, is also a 1993 representative, going a hard-luck 12-15, 3.45 for the Mets.

The 11-game-winner from the '98 Marlins is actually not Livan Hernandez; instead, it's Brian Meadows, a punching bag who went 11-13, topped out at 13 wins in 2000, and is still bouncing around. Livan went 10-12 in '98 and was sort of Florida's putative ace that year, pitching marginally better than Meadows and compiling an extra 60 innings. The Marlins' most effective starter, relatively speaking, was Jesus Sanchez---he of the 146-pitch start and "heart of a lion." (Livan twice topped 150 pitches that season, but . . . you know . . . he's Livan.)

Back to Snell, if he were indeed to win 14 games, and if the Pirates ended up winning only 55 games, then this difference would represent the third-lowest "suckiness delta" (team wins minus top-winner wins) on the list, 41, higher than only Johnson's '04 D-Backs (35) and the deplorable '03 Tigers (34). Mike Maroth was their big winner with nine victories; as you might recall, he also lost 21 games.

And now the Tigers are on pace for 109 wins this season. Hope for the Pirates? I don't know, but a Nats-Bucs matchup reminds me of one of the best blog rants of recent memory, courtesy of the Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? blog last season.

* * * *

Back to the Nats-Reds trade for a sec. Here are two contrasting opinions on the deal:

  • Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus: analytical, stats-based, "offer[ing nothing] but congratulations to Nats GM Jim Bowden" for pulling off a "rip-off for the ages."
  • Sean McClelland, Dayton Daily News: personality- and situationally-based, expressing "reality, which often runs contrary to the fantasy world," noting "the deal was generally panned, but many of those doing the panning are fantasy-baseball nitwits."
And one more perspective, free of charge: the Baseball Primer discussion of McClelland's column, including the first commenter, who "love[s] how these newspaper nitwits call all us grad students, professors, and lawyers out here on the internet nitwits. Our brains could wipe the floor with this jerk's." I do wonder---do comments like these react to, or create, the "nitwit" label? Ah, the chicken-and-the-egg.