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April 13, 2007
  
Upcoming Series: Washington Nationals Pitchers

After losing last weekend’s series to the Braves, the Mets really needed to take a pair of games from the flailing Phillies, and they did just that with their victory against them last night. Even had they lost the last two games of the series, their losing streak wouldn’t last much longer: the slump-busting Washington Nationals (2-8) are the next team on the horizon. The Nationals, who are looking like easily the worst team in the senior circuit, have allowed a league-leading 61 runs, while scoring just 23 times over the first ten games of the season. The team can’t hit, can’t pitch, and can’t play defense (they also lead the league in errors). In the first game, the Nationals’ “ace” John Patterson (0-2, 9.35) squares off against Mike Pelfrey (0-0, —), who will be making his first start of the year, setting up a game two matchup of Shawn Hill (0-2, 3.09) and Orlando Hernandez (1-0, 1.38). The two teams will cap off the series with a contest between Matt Chico (0-1, 7.27) and John Maine (1-0, 1.54).

Game 1: John Patterson

What’s the Story? After 2005, things were finally starting to look up for John Patterson. Healthy for a whole year, Patterson was very effective, going 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA with solid peripherals across the board. He looked poised to build upon that success last year, but the injury bug reared its ugly head again, and Patterson missed most of the season with forearm troubles. When he did pitch, his peripherals stayed strong though his ERA rose by more than a run. Patterson, once a big prospect in the Diamondbacks organization, has great stuff, including a fastball that touches the mid-90’s with good movement, and a power curveball with excellent break. He’s made an effort to mix in his slider and especially a developing changeup more frequently, but hasn’t had much of a chance yet.

Last Year: Patterson made one start against the Mets in April, going just four innings, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks. He did strikeout the side over each of the first two innings and wound up with seven on the day.

What to Expect: Patterson lives off his fastball-curveball combination, so expect lots of fastballs early in counts to set up his breaking ball. Unfortunately, neither of those pitches has been working well for him so far this year, as his fastball has lacked velocity (he hasn’t really hit 90 yet), and he hasn’t been able to get his breaking stuff over the plate. In general, he’s been quite wild, walking seven batters in just over nine innings while striking out four. The key is going to be for Mets hitters to do exactly what they did to him in his start last season: be patient, wait for their pitches, and let him run up his pitch count. With Patterson still building up arm strength, this shouldn’t be a tough contest.

Game 2: Shawn Hill

What’s the Story? The 26 year-old Hill is another pitcher who had an injury-plagued 2006 for the Nationals. He had Tommy John surgery in 2005, and was rushed back, only to have his elbow flare up after six starts, causing the Nats to shut him down for the year. Over those six starts, he was really quite effective, really just getting touched up a bit in his last two when his elbow likely wasn’t 100%. Hill is your classic sinkerball pitcher; he’ll throw a lot of strikes low in the zone, augmenting that with a curveball that can be quite good at times. The sinking fastball is a particularly good pitch, thrown in the high 80’s, heavy and boring in on right-handed batters. Much as he has with Patterson, Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire has been teaching him a changeup.

Last Year: Hill has never pitched against the Mets.

What to Expect: Hill has been the Nationals’ best pitcher in the early going this season, so expect a fairly well-pitched game. He’ll lay that sinker down often, getting a lot of groundballs. Don’t expect too many homers—he’s allowed just three in 57 career innings—or walks. He’ll mix in the curveball primarily to righties and the change to lefties. He’ll occasionally hang a curve, which will probably be the only pitch a hitter will get to drive. Other than that, he’ll let hitters put the ball in play, relying on defense and luck to get him through the game.

Game 3: Matt Chico

What’s the Story? The gem the Nats received in the trade that sent Livan Hernandez packing, Chico is a five-foot-eleven lefty who is making the jump from Double-A to the majors this season. In 2006, he went a combined 12-6 with a 2.87 ERA over 153 innings with 125 strikeouts and 40 walks in the minors. As last year’s stats indicate, he has both good command and good control, capable of locating his fastball right where he wants. This is reflected in his homerun rate (0.82 per nine innings), which isn’t bad for a flyball pitcher. He has a good fastball that touches 94, a decent curve and an adequate change, though I’m sure St. Claire, a big believer in the pitch, will work on that with him.

Last Year: Like Hill, Chico hasn’t thrown against the Mets either.

What to Expect: For a guy named Chico, he sure doesn’t play around; he’ll go right after hitters, staying in the zone with his fastball. I think the Nationals may have rushed Chico a tad, a necessary evil when you’re a team with no starting pitching. His secondary offerings are really nothing special, and his fastball isn’t really good enough for him to get away with that. He’ll leave the ball up in the zone, and sooner or later he’ll pay for that. In fact, he already has, giving up four homeruns in less than nine innings, so far. He has yet to pitch five innings this season, getting roughed up in each of his first two starts. I think he can be a major league starter in time, but he’s not there yet.

Overall: The Nationals are bad. They’re really bad. So bad, I can’t help but predict a sweep for the Mets. Normally I’d say they’re due to win a game, but they won last night, beating John Smoltz in a big upset. They have their only somewhat dependable starter on the mound in Hill and their ace in Patterson, but neither is really capable of dominating at this stage. Even if Hill pitches well, there’s no guarantee the lineup will do enough to support him. So I’m picking the Mets to beat up on Patterson, do enough to beat Hill, and soundly beat Chico in the third game before they head to Philadelphia for another series with the Phillies.


29 Responses to “Upcoming Series: Washington Nationals Pitchers”

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  1. Comment posted by Confused on April 13, 2007 at 12:52 am (#292904)

    no hrs for the mets yet at home?

    the nats get behind early, they havent scored a run in the first 3 innings per bbtn. and i think they havent scored more than 3 in any game.

    i sweep is expected, but pelfrey is the key. his first game this season, lucky its against the nats.

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  3. Comment posted by JK47 on April 13, 2007 at 1:06 am (#292907)

    Pelfrey couldn’t have asked for a softer touch to start the year. Here’s hoping he shreds the Nats lineup tomorrow.

  4. Comment posted by D Maggz on April 13, 2007 at 1:31 am (#292913)

    Yeah we need to sweep the Gnats and then take first place back from the braves.;)

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  6. Comment posted by 86Forever on April 13, 2007 at 7:28 am (#292968)

    Thanks, Alex.

  7. Comment posted by rts2346 on April 13, 2007 at 7:34 am (#292971)

    The other side of the equation is “How well will Pelfrey and Maine pitch?”, especially given recent performances and the cold weather.

  8. Comment posted by rts2346 on April 13, 2007 at 7:36 am (#292972)

    It would be interesting to read Alex’s analysis of the Met’s pitchers for this series.

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  10. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on April 13, 2007 at 7:54 am (#292976)

    It would be interesting to read Alex’s analysis of the Met’s pitchers for this series.

    That might be too much of a good thing. The purpose of these columns is to give readers an insight of what to expect from pitchers they might not have seen yet. Most Met fans know what to expect from Pelfrey, Hernandez, and Maine at this point. Not to mention that giving my thoughts on those pitchers would get pretty repetitive after a while.

    Also, I have to mention that these are already long columns that I write twice a week. Making them longer would just make it more prohibitive for me to write.

  11. Comment posted by Raskolnikov on April 13, 2007 at 8:12 am (#292980)

    Great work, Alex. Informative read as always.

  12. Comment posted by lucienlc on April 13, 2007 at 8:29 am (#292985)

    no hrs for the mets yet at home?

    The winds in April usually keep the HR hitting down to some extent. Besides, did you see how grungy the Apple was looking? Maybe they’re trying to ration their homers, to make it last two more years. ;-)

    i sweep is expected, but pelfrey is the key. his first game this season, lucky its against the nats.

    I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. Willie looked at the schedule and picked this spot for the kid.

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  14. Comment posted by pj on April 13, 2007 at 8:30 am (#292986)

    Most Met fans know what to expect from Pelfrey, Hernandez, and Maine at this point.

    Really, I don’t know what to expect.

    I hope Pelfrey is the ground-ball inducing machine he was during Spring Training, but I know he struggled a little in his last two outings.

    El duque has had two very similar and very good starts against good teams. He is the ultimate junkballer mixing a lot of pitches and speeds. I love seeing the 50 mph curve drop over the plate.

    Maine’s ERA (1.54) is the average of two very different starts. He was dominant in his first outing and in the second one he was lucky to get out of some jams and minimize the damage done.

    I think we’ve got a good chance to sweep, but probability says that the nats are due for some bounces to go their way.

  15. Comment posted by Danny on April 13, 2007 at 8:31 am (#292988)

    Great as always, Alex. I love these things.

    I think the Mets lose the third game. Rookie lefthander, with the Mets already having taken the first 2 games, it just seems set up for it. I mean, O’Connor came into Shea last year for the Nats and gave us fits and he’s not nearly the young, lefthanded arm that Chico is…

    Oh, who am I kidding? The Mets sweep. The Nats are awful.

  16. Comment posted by Mike on April 13, 2007 at 8:50 am (#292989)

    Thanks, Alex. Always a highlight of any new series. These guys don’t sound that bad, but the Mets aren’t exactly your workaday offense either. These fellas will be tested.

    As to that offense, Jose Reyes has a .455 OBP through 9 games. With 11 runs and 11 RBIs. Wow.

    Wow, wow, wow.

    It won’t last of course, but he’s hitting .500 with RISP so far!

  17. Comment posted by rts2346 on April 13, 2007 at 8:55 am (#292990)

    Alex This is a great column and I very much look forward to it. I was not seriously suggesting that you review the Mets pitchers before each series - and you are correct, after watching them regularly we would have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

    PJ did a better job of expressing what I was wondering. Since it is so early in the season, and since both Pelfrey and Maine have been inconsistent, I was wondering what the match ups would look like if they were analyzed in the same way as the Nats pitchers.

    I guess I will just have to watch the games and see for myself!

  18. Comment posted by ElSidRulz on April 13, 2007 at 9:57 am (#293005)

    I don’t know what to expect.

    I hope Pelfrey is the ground-ball inducing machine he was during Spring Training, but I know he struggled a little in his last two outings.

    El duque has had two very similar and very good starts against good teams. He is the ultimate junkballer mixing a lot of pitches and speeds. I love seeing the 50 mph curve drop over the plate.

    Maine’s ERA (1.54) is the average of two very different starts. He was dominant in his first outing and in the second one he was lucky to get out of some jams and minimize the damage done.

    Yeah, sounds like you’re totally in the dark!!

    I cannot help but acknowledge the Expos factor for the Nats> That club always played the Mets hard and took series & games that we walked into waiting to sweep> I think they are capable of beating us at least once if not more this series.

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  20. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on April 13, 2007 at 9:57 am (#293007)

    considering we’re all expecting/predicting a sweep here….I’d be happy with 2 of 3.

    Same ole mets!

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  22. Comment posted by Woodman on April 13, 2007 at 9:57 am (#293008)

    I say if the nats are going to win it game its game 2, I hope Duque is over his inconsistancies of last year but ill have to see it to believe it. Mets should get the sweep but 2 of 3 is always nice.

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  24. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on April 13, 2007 at 9:58 am (#293009)

    I cannot help but acknowledge the Expos factor for the Nats> That club always played the Mets hard and took series & games that we walked into waiting to sweep> I think they are capable of beating us at least once if not more this series.

    Exactly.

  25. Comment posted by sheadenizen on April 13, 2007 at 10:02 am (#293011)

    The winds in April usually keep the HR hitting down to some extent.

    Hasn’t stopped the Phils. I believe they hit 4. Mets definitely seem to be in a power outage, but I suspect as the weather warms up…so will the Mets. I worry a bit about Pelfrey tonight, but think ultimately the Mets prevail.
    Let’s Go Mets!
    And Confused…the Nats scored 7 runs to be meet the Marlins.

  26. Comment posted by C Low on April 13, 2007 at 10:06 am (#293015)

    Pelfrey couldn’t have asked for a softer touch to start the year. Here’s hoping he shreds the Nats lineup tomorrow.

    I completely agree.

    Nats are a nice soft team but Wagner’s got to shut his pie hole. (I don’t care how bad the team sucks.)

    “You’ve got to beat those teams. Those teams are the teams you’ve got to lay it on,” Billy Wagner said yesterday. “You can’t have a man on third base and not get him in. That’s a team, you’ve got to pound ‘em. And they’re a team that all of a sudden you go out there and you’re playing a 3-2 ballgame, all of a sudden they’re in it. . . . You make it more difficult. You’ve got to bury these teams.

    “You know you’re going to play tight games with the Braves. You know you’re going to play tight games for the most part against the Phillies. You can’t afford to let games against teams like Washington escape you.”

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  28. Comment posted by Confused on his Treo on April 13, 2007 at 10:15 am (#293026)

    if the nats don’t know what other teams think of them, they are really in trouble.

    thanks shea.

    the 4 hrs by philly is what made me write about the lack of met hrs.

    I’m sure they will come, and no better chance like the next 3 games.

    2 of 3 would be a disapoinment. they should take 3. no’ it isn’t the end of the world’ but like billy says. u have to beat the teams u should beat. the teams u are clearly better than.

    trust the billy

  29. Comment posted by C Low on April 13, 2007 at 10:21 am (#293038)

    u have to beat the teams u should beat. the teams u are clearly better than.

    Exactly. Everyone is thinking it, but you shouldn’t be telling the media. Big difference. Crappy team have nothing to play for which makes them play even crappier. Don’t give them incentive to play anything more than crap.

  30. Comment posted by lucienlc on April 13, 2007 at 10:38 am (#293061)

    Hasn’t stopped the Phils.

    I can think of at least 2-3 balls hit by both Mets and Phils that I think stayed in the yard because of the April weather and wind conditions.

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  32. Comment posted by pj on April 13, 2007 at 10:44 am (#293069)

    Yeah, sounds like you’re totally in the dark!!

    despite spending every waking moment following the mets, i can only generalize about the approaches of the Mets three starting pitchers. el duque is the best “known” commodity here and he has outperformed expectations thus far. i don’t think alex needs to write a whole article on the pitching style of the met startes for each series, but it would be interesting to look at previous matchups etc. maine and pelfrey don’t have much history vs. the nats, so again not much to say.

    Eric simon used to do a really good feature at Amazin Avenue. I miss that.

  33. Comment posted by Danny on April 13, 2007 at 11:41 am (#293171)

    Oh Deppy/ElSidRulz, you can fear the worst team in the big leagues if you want. I expect a sweep! :)

  34. Comment posted by vorn on April 13, 2007 at 12:04 pm (#293219)

    goin to the frozen tundra tonite, we gonna smoke deez foos.

  35. Comment posted by vorn on April 13, 2007 at 12:05 pm (#293221)

    the scaRy part about facing a team like this: They are due. John Patterson is pretty damn good too.

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  37. Comment posted by Eric Simon on April 13, 2007 at 12:10 pm (#293225)

    Eric simon used to do a really good feature at Amazin Avenue. I miss that.

    These will probably start up again soon, but early in the season the stats aren’t particularly meaningful.

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  39. Comment posted by pj on April 13, 2007 at 12:42 pm (#293265)

    Eric,

    If you don’t get on the ball, the Mets are going to stop paying you for all this blogwork.


    beepboop

  40. Comment posted by hasan on April 13, 2007 at 3:12 pm (#293469)

    yo, RESPEK!!!

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/powerranking?season=2007&week=2

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