In this season of inconsistent pitching, poor defense and up-and-down offense, how great was it to come close to sweeping the overspending Yankees, and at Yankee Stadium too? We almost had the first game until that one bad inning from the bullpen (and a few too many walks by Martis). But we got two great performances from John Lannan and Craig Stammen in the last two games, along with great defense (for once) and just enough offense. Hey, if the pitching can remain anywhere near this good, and the defense improves, then we can get by with fewer runs scored a game. You can go a long way with good pitching and good defense. We've already seen that a good offense by itself won't win you many games.
Yeah, I know, it's only two games, but to do that against the highest-paid team in the history of baseball and on the road was a big boost to this young team. Maybe it won't lead to an improved record, but it's still good to see that the starting pitchers have a great deal of potential. They'll probably be inconsistent throughout the year but at least we know that when they throw strikes and when they are "on", these guys can compete against any team. If they can take their lumps this year and learn the intricacies and important details about pitching and playing in the major leagues, then hopefully the rookies will develop the way John Lannan has. While remaining under the radar, John Lannan has quietly become a quite good major league pitcher. He's made steady improvement over his young career and now he has a 3.38 ERA after 14 starts, with a BAA of just .255. Though his K's to BB ratio could be a little better, he now looks like an established veteran. He's only 24 years old so he has a lot of great years ahead of him (knock on wood).
Jordan Zimmermann, Shairon Martis, Craig Stammen and Ross Detwiler have all shown flashes of greatness, even if they still haven't figured it all out yet. But they are young and just now gaining the experience that is so necessary to polish their games. Then add Strasburg to the mix and you could have a pretty decent starting rotation in 2010, or maybe even by the 2nd half of this year. The team will shut down Zimmermann, Martis and Detwiler at some point, so that they don't throw too many innings in their rookie years, but until that point, I think Nats fans will get to see the development of a core group of guys who will play huge roles for the team in the years to come.
Will this team get back to .500? Uh, no. But it sure is nice to see such significant progress for the team. Anderson Hernandez showed off some nice defensive moves this week too, and he's hitting a serviceable .270. If he can be a .270 hitter in future years while playing good-to-great defense at 2B, then that should really take care of the 2B position. Of course there's Z-Man (Ryan Zimmerman) at 3B, providing great glove work and good hitting. If only Jesus Flores didn't get beat up so much behind the plate. The team could really use his bat. This is why I think the Nats should at least consider giving him some time at 1B at some point. Nick Johnson won't be around forever and Flores just gets injured too much as a catcher. He's an OK defensive catcher but not really a lights-out player on defense or in throwing out runners at 2B. Still many holes to plug for next year but more of those holes seem to be filling this month. Let's see more of this stuff, the good pitching and good defense. A few more wins would be nice too.