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The importance of Pudge

Jun 15, 2010, 2:42 PM EDT


Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ivan Rodriguez has been a calming influence for Stephen Strasburg.

DETROIT — Much has been made about Ivan Rodriguez's role in Stephen Strasburg's fabulous first week in the majors, and it's a valid point. Pudge has been a valuable asset for the rookie right-hander, who has simply followed his lead while out on the mound and trusted the 20-year veteran to call a proper game.

Rodriguez's importance, though, extends beyond Strasburg. His return from the disabled list last week has had a dramatic effect on the club's fortunes, and that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

In four games since coming back from a lower back strain, Pudge is batting .438 (7-for-16) with three doubles, three RBI and 1.096 OPS. His batting average is up to .338, and his 12 doubles rank third on the club, even though he's gotten about two-thirds of the at-bats as most other regulars.

The Nationals, meanwhile, have won three of four games since Rodriguez returned.

Contrast that with the their performance during Pudge's DL stint, when the Nats went 5-9. Wil Nieves doesn't have a hit in his last 19 at-bats, and the Nationals are 2-7 in the last nine games he's startedRead more ยป

  1. Marty - Jun 15, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Has there been any update on how Flores is doing? It would be nice to be able to limit Pudge's starts more.

  2. Carl in 309 - Jun 15, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    Getting a veteran with Pudge's experience (and age!), and having a guy as productive with the bat, to say nothing of his value on and off the field with our young pitching staff, suggests that the Nationals have a fundamental need in the out years to secure a quality guy to catch for this team. While not an issue in the near term so long as Pudge is healthy, this is potentially an even more glaring problem than right field. And savvy at the catching position doesn't just grow on trees (or we'd be slotting Bryce Harper for this job).I for one am not comfortable waiting for Jesus Flores, though he would seem be an improvement over Nieves (both of whom I admire for their diligence and effort). I would rather see the Nationals look elsewhere.

  3. markfd - Jun 15, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    Pudge is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink!

  4. Doc - Jun 15, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Good article Mark! Pudge was probably Rizzo's best pick-up last winter. He gives the team some added class and respect, and makes a few other players on the Nats look even better.

  5. Grandstander - Jun 15, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    Pudge was definitely a steal for us. Not to turn a positive into a negative, but what's the deal with Nieves? I know we don't have much else in the way of options, but why was Burke not at least given a shot? He couldn't possibly be worse! Any chance Marshmellow gets called up when he gets off the DL? Probably not.I don't understand this teams fascination with Wil Nieves… Maybe they're trying to get him an individual perfect game – 27 consecutive at-bats without a walk or hit?

  6. James Bjork - Jun 15, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    I'm glad Pudge is on the team for a variety of reasons. I can now dust off my Wilkerson #7 jersey I bought when the team moved here, and use a little thread-ripping device to take Wilkerson's name off, leaving the "7."Not all signings work out, but this one surely has so far.Regarding Nieves, I think it's absurd that we keep having to hear all that salsa music blaring (even thru a radio broadcast) when Nieves comes to bat. There ought to be a rule that a position player does not get walk-up music unless he bats his weight.

  7. JayB - Jun 15, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    Been pointing this out for weeks folks. Flores will not play this year and Wil N. is really a joke and always has been. There is a reason he just showed up on our door step….nobody wanted him. It is time to admit we have a problem and go get a real solid 75 game back up catcher. Rizzo must make some kind of move at Catcher soon or forget about this year and start trading vets like Guz, Dunn, Morgan, Capps and Willingham. Cut Kennedy and Harris and bring up some of the 30 something Syr roster who have show they can hit this year. Orr would be so much better than Harris in any role.

  8. Kevin Rusch - Jun 15, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Yeah, Nieves is a really great guy who can't hit. However, who are you going to replace him with? I wasn't aware of Joe Maurer's little brother being a free agent. Anyone? A mystery Molina? Brad Asumus?

  9. JayB - Jun 15, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    That error was made in the off season when Rizzo offered $1Million Arb to Wil N. instead of looking at the Data from 2009 and correctly concluding he needed to sign to FA catchers not Pudge and resign Wil. Rizzo could have easily filled the hole in January just like he could have filled RF in January. We are paying the price of limited budgets and low expectations for 2010. Lerner and Stan will be happy with the profit margin of a .450 team with a half year of SS. I on the other hand am expecting more than profits from this years team.

  10. Anonymous - Jun 15, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    Nice article, what Pudge does best is inspire confidence in his teammates. With his past experience he knows the difference between a bad ballclub and a good one is small. Hold your head up, work hard to control what you can, and than work harder.

  11. Anonymous - Jun 15, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    The Nationals, meanwhile, have won three of four games since Rodriguez returned.You must mean three of four games that Pudge has started. I seem to recall them dropping a pair to the Cleveland Actas last weekend. Or do games lost in throwback uniforms not count?

  12. Andrew - Jun 15, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Mark, is it fair to question Pudge's game calling? Never known as a terrific caller, he seems to be helping the hitters by not having Stephen be aggressive, especially early. The hits aren't coming off his best stuff.

  13. Anonymous - Jun 15, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    it looks to me like Flores is finished. I'd be surprised if he ever returns. If he does, he likely get injured again. The Nats need to find a decent backup catcher and that not an easy task. Nieves is not the answer. By the way, Derek Norris is having a poor season in the minors. He may not be a long term solution either.

  14. Matteo - Jun 15, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    There has to be another Molina brother out there for us to pick up. I thought it was in the MLB bylaws that at least 30% of MLB teams had to have a Molina on the roster for the season to count.

  15. Anonymous - Jun 15, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    It always makes me chuckle when people criticize Pudge's game calling. Way, way back because of his penchant for calling fastballs with runners on bases. Heaven forbid he would throw out a base runner (gasp) doesn't that help the pitcher out? He has taken two young staffs to the world series doesn't that outweigh anything he did when with the Rangers in the 90's?

  16. Anonymous - Jun 15, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    They drafted catchers and shortstops first position-wise in this year's draft. So, there are now more catchers beyond Flores, Norris, Nieto, Rooney, Leon, and Solano. However, I think they need to trade for a very good defensive catching prospect in AAA somewhere that isn't a bad hitter, preferably a left-handed hitter on the chance that either Norris or Flores do pan out. And while Pudge finishes out his career with Nationals. Rooney, Nieto and Leon are switch hitters, but only Leon has really been hitting this year.

  17. Doc - Jun 15, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Gary Carter was criticized for calling fastballs with runners on base–after he was traded to the Mets! Last time I checked he was in the HOF, and none of those that critcized him are!I loved watching Carter throw runners out, particularly early in his career. It's something that young catchers have to adjust to, learning the art of 'what' to call 'when'. I'd say Pudge has learned that art. GoooooooPudge, GoooooooNats!

  18. Andrew - Jun 15, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Doc, I am criticizing him for not calling enough fastballs, especially early in the count – early in the game.This scout noticed the same thing and we both agree…http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/06/13/scouts-take-nitpicking-at-strasburg/

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