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Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Wee haaaa! On a roll, bay-beee. The Nats are 1-0 in the McCatty Era. The team is within 22 games of the .500 mark. Better days ahead.

Ah, but there's still a question to be answered. Or so we're told on the television. Bob and Rob talked about it last night before the Nats exploded for a zillion runs in the bottom of the eighth. With the bad news about Jesus Flores' shoulder, there's now a competition going on with Wil Nieves and Josh Bard for the top catching job.


Mike Rizzo was quoted as saying the team is content to go with those two and I suppose it makes sense. If there was a No. 1-worthy catcher out there, someone would already have him. It is probably not worth trading even a marginal prospect for someone to use the rest of this season. What, catching Nieves-Bard is going to cost this team a playoff spot?

So while being OK with this duo because of circumstances, I'm still a bit confused. A competition? Is there really any question that Nieves is the better choice of the two?

Bard is growing on me and not because he hit a home run last night. I posted a while back about a quote of his I loved. I saw his postgame interview last night and my guess is he's the media people's dream. Chatty, personable, a good quote. He's a guy I could like a lot. Despite Nieves' recent hitting, Bard is probably a better offensive option.

But by how much? Heck, Wil "Who?" Nieves almost had a grand slam last night!

I also can't make myself believe Bard's a solid defensive catcher because I haven't seen any evidence of that. It seems that Nieves has it over him there in a big way. Neither of them is Flores on offense or defense but, sadly, that's no longer an option for 2009.

Am I nuts? Shouldn't it clearly be Nieves-Bard?

As for Flores, I'm still bothered by the use of the term "stress fracture." Years ago, before I gained eight million pounds, I ran a lot. Even did the 1997 Marine Corps Marathon. Honest. My brother was there was a witness. I know a thing or two about stress fractures because I had a couple. I've been under the impression they were overuse injuries. Flores took a ball hard off his shoulder.

I'm also curious why it didn't show up before he went on a rehab assignment.

Perhaps there's a perfectly reasonable and legit medical explanation for all this. I'm going to guess that's the case. But given the Nats' medical history over the past couple of years, these questions are not out of line.

I really hate this for Flores. He's the best thing JimBow did for the Nats. I love the way he plays, love the way he carries himself. I think I'm going to wear my Flores t-shirt to the game tonight in his honor.


An Briosca Mor said...

Nieves may be a better "catch and throw" guy than Bard is. At the plate, it's probably a wash. But Bard may be a better game caller than Nieves, and that's a big part of the catching job, especially with a young staff. (Remember all the props Brian Schneider used to get for his game calling? And hmmm...the Brian Schneider years pretty much coincided with St. Claire's glory days as the pitching coach. Maybe more than a mere coincidence there, y'think?) If you believe Dibble, Nieves's pitch selection was suspect and/or the young starters weren't assertive enough with him to shake off his bad choices. It could be that Bard's pitch calling tracks better with McCatty's philosophy (go with your strengths, not with attacks on the batter's weaknesses) than Nieves does. And even though Nieves is a better "catch and throw" guy, he still doesn't have much success throwing out base stealers. But then again neither does Bard.

As for why it took the rehab stint for them to find Flores's stress fracture, remember that the only real remedy for a stress fracture is non-use. But if you stress the bone again too soon, you undo whatever healing you might have gotten while you laid off. While he was on the DL, they thought Flores was healing from a bone bruise, and when that time was up he should have been good to go. But at the same time he was also healing from the undiagnosed stress fracture, which takes longer than the bone bruise. When they thought he was over the bone bruise, he started coming back and aggravated the stress fracture.

Chris Needham said...

Not that it means a damn thing -- especially with the samples we're looking at -- but the team ERA when Bard catches is a full run lower than when Nieves does.

Teams are also running on Bard about 70% as often as they run on Nieves. (again, pitcher/opponent are big factors in that, so there's not much you can use from it)

Nieves is always hopping and gesturing out there, so it LOOKS like he's a good defensive catcher. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. But he does a lot of things with his mannerisms to suggest that he is, so we assume he is.

(Also, there's the old Law of Catcher's Defense: when you've got a backup catcher who can't hit, you assume he's a good fielder/game caller since there'd be no other reason he's in the league)

MikeHarris said...

Good points all. I do agree we probably need a bigger sample size on the ERA thing.

When someone runs on Bard, I never have the feeling he'll be thrown out.

But he is a great quote. And maybe he hits more with regular time. So what the hell.

Chris Needham said...

Neither's going to hit for average. Neither really gets on base. But Nieves has zero power. Bard has a little bit.

Seems like the best option is to platoon them.

Dave Nichols said...

i think we'll probably see a fairly even platoon, unless one of them catches fire for a small streak. neither are full-time catchers in any sense of the word, and i think Acta realizes that he need to get through the season with these two. there are no other option in the minors.

Derek Norris will have to wait until 2010 to make his debut.

MikeHarris said...

Is bringing up Montz and letting him learn with the pitchers out of the question?

They talked about the platoon last night and Dibble had some reasons why they needed a clear No. 1 to catch four games out of five. Damned if I can remember them now.

An Briosca Mor said...

The reason why you need a clear #1 instead of a platoon at catcher is the same as the reason you need a clear #1 instead of a platoon at every other position. Continuity. It's as much of a team game as it is an individual game. Defensive deficiencies can only be worsened by having a different guy at many of the positions from one night to the next. How can they work together as a unit if they don't even have a consistent unit?

Acta used as a big excuse for last year the fact that he had six different guys at each of the infield positions. Well, some of that was due to injuries, but some of it was due to him writing out the lineup cards that way. This year, injuries are less of an issue but the musical chairs at many positions is still going on. Outfield, 2B and catcher are this year's big culprits. I think Acta would be much better served (and probably much more successful) if he just picked a starting lineup and stuck with it through thick and thin. Look at the Phillies, that's what they do. Acta can get the non-starters playing time through pinch hitting, defensive replacements, double switches, etc. He doesn't have to give them starts two or three days a week to do it.

I think this is also a big factor in Acta's teams always stumbling out of the gate year after year. He has never come out of spring training with a fixed starting lineup or rotation. Some of that's not his fault, but some of it definitely is.

Anonymous said...

While Montz has had a couple of cups of coffee, he's really not a major league catcher. In Sunday's game at Bowie, he had at least one error and several poorly executed plays. He might have a few good games, but he's not consistently good enough to be in the majors.

Schruender said...

I hate looking at the ERA of a staff with one catcher versus the ERA with that of another. Sure game-calling is a big aspect of what they do, but I think hitting and fielding the position should be 98% of why they are in the lineup.