[August 7th] -- What's the difference between a 1-2 record vs. the Padres this weekend and a sweep?
A bullpen that gets people out.
If Frank Robinson believed in his bullpen, if he thought that he could count on them to get anyone out, he wouldn't have left his starters in longer than he should have on both Saturday and Sunday. Pedro Astacio pitched a masterful six innings, allowing just one run. In the next two-thirds of an inning, however, when Astacio should have been showering and savoring his quality start, the 36 year old gave up another four runs, losing the game 6-3. On Sunday, Livan was near-perfect as he took a 1-0 lead into the 7th inning. After two quick outs, he tired and walked Dave Roberts, then gave up a long two-run homer to Brian Giles. The Nats lost that one in extra innings, 3-2.
A quality bullpen isn't sexy, that's for sure, but it's also a "must" for any team with hopes of winning as many games as it loses. Had Robinson had anyone other than Micah Bowie who he could trust, the Nationals would probably have left San Diego with two wins, perhaps even three.
Last year, the Nationals had a superb bullpen with a horrid offense. This year, they have a solid offense but can't hold leads late in the game. Which is better? Which is worse? Year after year, teams with the "Murderer's Row" offenses don't even make it into the playoffs because they kept losing games 11-10 and 9-8. Kinda like the Cincinnati Reds. All season, their potent offense kept building seemingly insurmountable leads, only to find out that they weren't insurmountable at all. So what do they do? They trade 25% of their starting lineup for some bullpen depth, and it seems to be working. They are a better team.
The Nationals are in a similar quandary. They can try to trade some of their offense for pitching over the winter, but they'll end up being just like they were in 2005, a below average offense with an above average pitching staff. For a team claiming to be rebuilding, that's just not going to cut it.
I don't have the answer, and I'm afraid that Jim Bowden and Stan Kasten don't either. While I'm thoroughly enjoying having Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns on the team, having them here isn't necessarily making the Nationals a better team.
Round-and-round-and-round we go. And I'm getting dizzy.