I hope everyone out there in reader-land had a very safe and happy Easter holiday. If you have followed along with this column since the start of the season, I have good news for you all. For the first time this season, Dynamic Inertia is actually showing signs of life! We all know how much of a struggle it had been through the first three weeks, but week four finally started to turn things in the right direction.
For the first time this year, we made all of our weekly hitting targets. Our at-bat total (294) was at its highest total of the young season, and as I explained all offseason, maximizing your potential at-bats correlates strongly to success in this game. For the week we hit a blistering .299, raising our season average all the way up to .255. This is still well short of the .277 that we are trying to attain, but is at least a promising step in that direction. We scored 45 runs this week, which is just barely over our target of 44. This leaves us almost 12 runs behind the pace that we want to achieve for the season, but one good week can fix that problem. Our total of 48 RBIs for the week (lead by eight from Ryan Raburn finally producing) is actually six over our target, which brings our deficit on the season down to five, so no serious problem there either.
Will Venable has struggled mightily this young season, but he did steal three bases last week to lead our team to a total of eight. This is slightly over our weekly target of seven, and for the year we are exactly on pace here. The major problem on offense remains power. We did bounce back from an atrocious three home runs in week three to hit 10 this week, but we are still 10-and-a-half behind the pace for the year. Justin Morneau, Michael Young, Will Venable and Carl Crawford combining to hit one long ball on the season are primarily to blame for this deficit. Hopefully, with Corey Hart returning to action this week, we will see an increase in this department.
On the pitching side of things, the problem continues to be wins. As I’ve explained before in this column after the first week, I felt that we were already dangerously behind the pace in wins and would need to add double starters as much as possible in an attempt to rectify the situation.
Well, each of the previous weeks we have employed this strategy, yet still are way behind where we need to be in wins. Chris Carpenter and Matt Garza have both pitched fairly well, and each has had his bullpen blow leads after leaving as the pitcher of record. I know that their wins will eventually come, but having them combine for zero thus far has been frustrating. Michael Pineda has actually been the ace of our staff in the early going with three of our seven victories. Justin Verlander and Scott Baker also pitched well and earned victories this week. Though their three wins are under the target pace that we need, it was at least a welcomed improvement. Still, we are eight wins behind the pace and will continue to add double starters where possible in an effort to correct this issue.
For the week we pitched only 51.2 innings, but did so with solid ratios of a 3.31 ERA/1.10 WHIP. Although still way too high, these bring our season totals down to 4.21/1.28 respectively. Our staff combined to strike out more than a batter per inning with 53, which brings our season total to 16 over the pace that we want to achieve.
Jose Contreras recorded our only two saves of the week, but he also headed to the disabled list and may never return to his closer role upon returning. Luckily, Drew Storen has seized the gig in Washington and will immediately step in for Contreras in our lineup. We are only one save behind our target for the year so far, and hopefully Joel Hanrahan and Storen can keep us at the 3-3.5 save average that we need.
As far as the lineup planning for this week is concerned, we do have a couple of decisions to make. On offense we do have one quality bat on our bench in Casey Blake, who hit .370 last week with 10 runs scored (six over the weekend while in our lineup) a home run and four RBI. While it would be great to fit him in again this week, Michael Young is firmly entrenched at third, Vladimir Guerrero occupies our utility spot and Justin Morneau finally returned and had two multi-hit games over the weekend. Since it appears that he has gotten things going, he has to be in the lineup as well. Still, Blake is a very quality bench guy to have and will help us out immensely over the course of the season.
The other decision on offense revolves around Corey Hart. He is expected to return to the Brewers lineup on Tuesday in the middle game of their series against the Reds. This would leave him with two games for the Monday-Thursday period where he could potentially play for us. The two options to sit down to make room for Hart are Rick Ankiel and Will Venable. Ankiel plays four games this period, and continues to hit second for the Nationals. In an effort to maximize at-bats, he has to remain in the lineup. Venable has struggled greatly, but at least he showed some signs of life last week. He also plays three games for the period against the Braves. If the Monday night lineup comes out before the 6:55 p.m. deadline and Venable isn’t in, then I’ll probably swap Hart in. If Venable looks like he’ll play three, then we will wait until the weekend to activate Hart.
As for our nine pitching spots, our options for this week aren’t attractive. Storen and Hanrahan are in for sure as our closers. Verlander, Carpenter, Garza, Baker and Pineda have all earned the right to pitch every week for us. This leaves the final two spots to the group of Marco Estrada, JA Happ, James McDonald and Jason Vargas. Vargas pitches for a Seattle team that doesn’t win often, and is at Fenway against a Boston team that has hit much better recently. He’s out for sure. Estrada has actually been the best of the bunch and has earned at least one start for us, so he’s in.
The final spot comes down to two pitchers who have been more or less terrible this year in Happ and Mcdonald. Happ pitches at home against the hard-hitting Cardinals, while McDonald goes at home against the Giants. There is a possibility that Pujols may miss that entire series, so maybe Happ gets the call? Though I can’t even make a good argument for McDonald, he seems to be the direction that I’m leaning right now. This one will likely be a game time decision.
Here’s to hoping that our momentum from week four spills over into week five and that as we look back next week we’ll continue our steady climb up the standings. Again, I genuinely appreciate any feedback, comments, questions or concerns that you may have about my team or yours. Leave em’ here and I’ll be happy to offer any advice. Best of luck to you all in week five!