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An accomplishment, but not the ultimate one

Jun 23, 2011, 4:21 AM EDT

Associated press photo
John Lannan was effective yet again, earning his fifth win of the season.

Ryan Zimmerman and John Lannan have been members of the Nationals organization for six years now, both having been among the club’s first draft class in 2005. Neither has ever experienced team success, unless you want to count Zimmerman’s minimal participation during the Nats’ September 2005 collapse.

So what they were feeling late Wednesday night in the wake of a 2-1 victory over the Mariners was foreign to them. For the first time, they are part of a ballclub that has reached the .500 mark following the summer solstice.

No one inside the Nationals clubhouse was entirely sure what to make of this accomplishment. A .500 record certainly isn’t something to be satisfied with, yet it also signals an important milestone in this franchise’s development.

After endless talk over the years about building a competitive team, they finally boast the record to back it up.

“It’s a good place to be right now,” said Lannan, who continued his recent run of success to earn the victory Wednesday. “I mean, I’ve never been on a team that’s this far into the season and been .500. I
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  1. Scooter - Jun 23, 2011 at 4:23 AM

    Go, Youngster: Fetch New Gorse!

  2. SonnyG10 - Jun 23, 2011 at 5:03 AM

    GYFNG!!!

  3. Drew8 - Jun 23, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    Greinke, You Forgot Nats Gumption!!!

  4. Grandstander - Jun 23, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    "I think a ton of a teams are .500 in June all the time," Zimmerman said. "I think the way we were down a little bit and we battled back, it's a nice two-week span. You can't get too caught up in that, because there's still however many months left. We know that we have to continue to keep playing like this if we want to turn this into anything special. And believe us, we know that we have a lot of work left in front of us."————————————————That's the only thing I wanted to hear from the players tonight. Tonight, we, the fans, celebrate. I popped a very nice bottle of wine to celebrate .500 this late. It's a milestone, for sure, but it's just a number too. I'm confident this team has its head on straight. This is where that veteran leadership we've been hearing all about needs to keep everyone's head in the game and not off in the clouds. We've officially got a legitimate baseball club again, let's not piss it away. We hit our first goal, but we gotta win tomorrow to keep it. Now let's get out tomorrow and sweep!

  5. Scooter - Jun 23, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    Drew8 wins the Internet.

  6. dryw - Jun 23, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Glorious, Young, Fresh Nats: GREAT!!!Giddy, Yet Feeling Now Golden!!!(or, to describe myself, and in light of the above story: Girl Yearns For Nats Glory!)

  7. natsfan1a - Jun 23, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Lots of super contributions, and Drew's is definitely gold.In other news, reaching .500 mark after the summer solstice. First time that record this late since 2005. hmmm…I'm thinking that a road trip to Stonehenge may be in order to keep the mojo going? Bring your own robe and stuff. Kidding…sort of.http://tinyurl.com/682p8qm

  8. Dave - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Ladson tweeted a rather snarky comment by Brendan Ryan after last night's game:"#Mariners infielder Brendan Ryan is not impressed with #Nats LHP John Lannan: “No disrespect, I think we have to look at ourselves. I don’t think it had anything to do with [Lannan]. You face guys like [Justin] Verlander and find ways to put runs on the board. No disrespect to these guys, but [Bedard] is pitching his tail off and we have to do something. You can’t just score one run off of — you can’t just score one run.” "Hmm. Well, let's see if Jason Marquis can shut them down today. Then let's see what young Brendan has to say about not scoring more than one run off of–not scoring one run.Hope Ryan goes 0 for 4 today.Great Yapping Finds No Groove.

  9. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Dave…. maybe somebody should remind young Mr. Ryan that not too many people are impressed with the Mariners Slugging % (.342, second worst in baseball) or their On Base % (.298, worst in baseball) or the team batting average (.230, worst in baseball).

  10. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    So in in short, he's correct… Mr. Ryan meet Mr. Mirror.

  11. JayB - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    Having too much fun to post….I was wrong about Riggs I guess….He has made all the right moves lately…(hatted that Gorzo quote about starters get mad when i do what is best for the team in the first 5 innings but….oh well).I did say all along that they would get and end at or over .500. This is a very different team. Adam Dunn was a great person but he just did not really care about the score…that attitued was everywhere in past Nats teams.I am also right that Danny E is the best player on this team not starting witn Z. He is amazing and NJACK…he should be the Nats All Star…if Clip goes too OK but Danny E is the best player this year.More fun to come….All I ever wanted is competitive baseball to watch..we have it finally!Zimm is smart to learn to throw correctly….he has been getting set into very poor footwork and arm slots for years….He will be fine….you are need to move your feet and get on top of your throws…..He just has not done that for well over 6 years.

  12. sjm308 - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Interested to see what the crowd is like on an afternoon game. Would expect lots of excitement and a buzz about this team. Can't imagine lots of Seattle fans so the 40,000+ that have come in so far pretty much have to be Nats fans (or fans of baseball). We will be there in 308, have to admit that two of our sth group have always been a little lacks about attendance but it seems that winning draws people out (duh, see Capitals). Coffey, Balester and Matheus are fresh for today so lets shut them down again!!Go Nats! GYFNG

  13. natsfan1a - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    It is fun, JayB, and you're a stand-up guy for saying that about Riggleman, imo.We'll be out there today, too. Last time I checked there were still tix available for today's single game kids' and seniors' ticket specials (in ticketing area of the team site).

  14. natsfan1a - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Yup, just tried and still tix showing for both specials:http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/ticketing/specials.jspThe senior one is online only, I think.

  15. natsfan1a - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Also, my husband informs me that, contrary to popular belief, Stonehenge functions were evidently planned around the *winter* solstice. D'oh! (Hope those airline tix are refundable. Kidding.)Let the druid-powered, Beast Mode, gorse-hacking fun continue!Can you tell that I had *real* coffee instead of instant this a.m., and that I'm going to see my Nats today? I need to get out more…

  16. Anonymous - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Brendan Ryan is a dope. If the Nats, or almost anybody for that matter, got to play in the AL west they would win that division 4 out of 5 years. What a joke!!

  17. NatStat - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    According to the Mariners' team batting stats, a lot of pitchers must seem like Justin Verlander to Ryan and his Mendoza Line fumble butts.Gee, I wonder what bad things he would have to say if he faced Greg Maddox. For the other half of the game, Ryan's Non-Express did even worse against our BP clones of Verlander. Guess you guys can't hit whoever is pitching!

  18. SCNatsFan - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Love seeing the boys at .500 – in the words of the great Dr. Leo Marvin, "Baby Steps". You can almost see the boys starting to ooze some confidence, have some swagger. Nice to win a game on two unearned runs. Would have only made it better had Ryan made one of the errors.

  19. Gonat - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    "I think people are going to pay more attention to us," Espinosa said. "Coming back from where we were, people probably just thought: 'Another Nationals year they're going to flop, whatever.' This team's not like that. We're not going to accept losing, and it's obvious."I stayed around the stadium late so when I jumped in the car to listen to the post-game I heard the Danny guy (he's good) filling in for Phil Wood and after that came the normal time slot segment and the topic started on the Nats. These guys called the Nats the 2nd best team in Washington (based on record) ahead of the Redskins and the Wiz. These guys were gushing about the youth and core of the Nats. Truthfully, I didn't see any of this coming but then again I didn't see the Nats whipping Cliff Lee on May 31st and LannEn winning for the first time against the Phillies on June 1st. Those 2 games are what this surge started with. Breaking that old cycle of same ole same ole, not beating Cliff Lee, Lannan not beating the Phillies.You could feel for the last week that the bandwagon had started. Feffer's timing for cheaper tickets has helped too during the Cardinals Tuesday 6 run comeback game. I had some very loud people around me last night and this one young lady apologized and I said no problem. Heck, it was enjoyable seeing people excited about a 2-1 game. She was cheering so loud for Tyler Clippard that I asked if she was friends with him (her answer was no).While I don't have a lot of respect for bandwagon fans in general, I understand that it is how a fanbase is built as some of them will stick around long-term and these extra fans did add to the whole excitement on June 8th (2010) which was the most fun I ever had at a baseball game. The whole concept of home field advantage and the adrenailine rush from a raucus home crowd is a plus. I guarantee you that if the Nats continue this that they will pull more fringe fans from the outter stretches of the Maryland suburbs who were previously O's fans.This could be a real interesting summer!!!!

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Good to hear from you, JayB…. we both knew this was a much improved roster coming out of ST and they are actually playing to their potential (finally). I still stand by my statement that the roster that finishes this season will be better than the one that started and we are starting to see those incremental improvements already. Gaudin and Slaten out and Mattheus and Rodriguez in. Colin Balester as a 12th bull pen arm.I see potential improvements to the starting staff and the bench (Ankiel and Stairs out and anybody better in). Yes we could use another lefthander in the bull pen and that may be Gorzelany or somebody else and we still culd use a bonafide lead off guy.But hey! I'm not complaining. Let's get through the next 7 games and get to the 81 game mark and assess the situation.And I'm with you on the overall play of Espinosa. He's special but baseball tends to make it doubly tough for rookies to make the All Star roster. I'd have no problem with him being our rep but still feel as though Clip will recieve the recognition that he deserves.

  21. JD - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I don't want to rain on anyone's parade and as you know I have been upbeat all along but there are some danger signs ou there: 1)Lannan's BABIP for the year is .279 and which is extremely low but during the current streak it;s something crazy like .207. This is not sustainable; while he has pitched very well he has also been ridiculously lucky and luck tends to even out in the long run. 2) Livo, Marquis and Gorzelany have produced better thatn what should have been expected so there is always danger that this can swing the other way. Here's hoping that the fun continues.

  22. N. Cognito - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    JayB siad…"Adam Dunn was a great person but he just did not really care about the score"And was an attitude not wanted in a clubhouse full of young, impressionable ballplayers.

  23. JD - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    JayB, 100% correct about Espinosa. He has definitely been our best player in the 1st half followed by Mike Morse who won't get all start consideration because there are too many big time 1st basemen. Clippard has been fantastic but will be hurt by the fact that he has no saves. This is silly but is also reality.

  24. N. Cognito - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Anonymous said… "Brendan Ryan is a dope. If the Nats, or almost anybody for that matter, got to play in the AL west they would win that division 4 out of 5 years. What a joke!!"I fully understand what Ryan was saying. Although Lannan can throw a ball in the low 90's, he relies on location to be successful. When a guy like Lannan shuts you down, you come away thinking, "How did we not hit this guy."

  25. masnstinks - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    This has been great fun and a welcome relief. I don't think any of us are naive enough to think that the second half will be a piece of cake. I was one of the angry ones when Riggs kept saying the effort and intensity were there – we weren't winning. But – he was actually right – this team battles and doesn't quit – they lost a lot of one-run games earlier and now we are winning some of them. The pendulum could just as easily swing back the other way. I am trying to focus on the way the play a little more and just accepting the results , whatever they are. I love the way fp is focusing on players growing up right in front of our eyes. This team also seems to have a real unity that is nice to watch – they didn't turn on each other like the Marlins when they were losing. However – coming up to AL parks – get ready to see our dead weight on the bench getting a DH start and going o-fer a few times. That's one thing that still needs to change. So far they have worked around him, but if the winning continues , we will need a 25th man who can actually contribute.

  26. Gonat - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    So in in short, he's correct… Mr. Ryan meet Mr. Mirror. June 23, 2011 8:27 AM JayB said… Having too much fun to post….I was wrong about Riggs I guess….He has made all the right moves lately…(hatted that Gorzo quote about starters get mad when i do what is best for the team in the first 5 innings but….oh well).June 23, 2011 8:30 AM_______________________________JayB, there is a saying that managers aren't criticized during wins.Perfect example was when he had Storen intentionally walk Pujols to put the winning run on base to pitch to Lance Berkman. It worked out. I have been in Riggleman's corner but I have been critical of Rizzo and his "veteran" leadership and bench he assembled which I just have a hard time grasping. Its working so I have chilled out on calling out Stares lately and that guy Slaten. Hmmm, Slaten, how much better is this team been without Slaten as part of it?

  27. UNTERP.NAT - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    I guess this is as good a time as any to hop on the criticism of Riggleman. Really the only issue (and it's not really the only issue, just sayin') I have with his management is his fondness of Rick Ankiel. Nuff said…

  28. Navy Nats Fan - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    On the subject of pitching, you have to love this line from the ESPN recap of Vanderbilt ousting North Carolina in the CWS:"Taylor Hill (6-1) outdueled Greg Holt (7-2) in a matchup of Washington Nationals draft picks."One of the nice things about Vandy draft picks is they rarely leave college early because a Vanderbilt scholarship is so valuable. Hill is a senior and has pitched four years at the highest NCAA level. Hope he will sign soon after the CWS and move through the levels as fast as Storen did. Although Drew left Stanford after two years (hard to turn down first round money!) he spent last off-season working to finish his degree at Stanford. Go Vandy!Go Nats!GYFNG!

  29. Andrew - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Navy Nats Fan, thanks for that! Good stuff about Hill & Holt!

  30. fpcsteve - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    The kid from Vandy was really impressive last night (great interview, too–sounded like a good guy). I watched the game, and he pitched really well against a good ball club. It is becoming more and more obvious that the Nats are acquiring and developing good pitching throughout the entire organization. That bodes well for the future even as they are making great progress now. FWI…

  31. Tim - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    I fully understand what Ryan was saying. Although Lannan can throw a ball in the low 90's, he relies on location to be successful. _____________________________________________Not comparing lannan to "the 4 aces" but I thought at the MLB level that it really is all about pin point command. Lee, Halladay, and Oswalt don't typically throw upper 90s. They pound their spots. Lannan has had good stuff the last few months, he has hit his spots, his velocity seems to be up, and his pithces seem to really be moving well.

  32. HHover - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    JDI think you're right that the Nats' success has depended on starting pitching and that there are some question marks looking forward, but I don't see the same question marks you do.Lannan – his BABIP of .279 on the season is only slightly better than his career average. His recent good luck on BABIP comes after a horrible start, so it's averaged out. Yes, he's on a hot streak and will cool off. But the bottom line is that I think the Nats can count on him to give them a strong July-August-September, with season numbers around where they are now.As for the rest of the starting rotation:* Gorzy has been under- not over-performing on the season. I expect him to improve or go on the DL again.* Marquis does worry me, both because he has been overperforming and because he tends to fade in Aug. and Sept. Of course, he could be gone by then, but that would create a new question mark. * Z'mann – has been fantastic, but with expected innings limits, may have only about 10 more starts in him.* Livo, I'm not worried about.

  33. JD - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Tim, The point is that when people hit balls into play lately they only hit .207 against him. This won't continue; it can't.

  34. JD - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    HHover, Your analysis is reasonable. I,m just cautioning that we don't have the luxury of guaranteed good pitching like the Phillies do and until we get studs like Strasburg etc. in the rotation it's always going to be touch and go.

  35. FS - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    So if I understand correctly, low BABIP can be attributed to defense behind that pitcher. If we do not expect our defense to go down, why would a pitcher like Lannan who relies on the defense heavily will start sucking? Am I missing something?

  36. Sec3MySofa - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    I'm too lazy to look this up, but babip doesn't vary much, generally, even with good pitchers and defense. When it does, that is considered to reflect that "one hit a week" Crash Davis didn't get–a bloop, a bleeder, a ground ball with eyes, a gork, a Texas-Leaguer, a swinging bunt, a bad call — things that can happen when they get a good result but a bad outcome.

  37. sec3mysofa - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Which gets called "luck" for lack of a better term.

  38. sec3mysofa - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    In other words, on any given pitch ("small sample size"), anything can happen, but "at the end of the year, the .300 hitters will be hitting .300, and the .250 hitters will be hitting .250."

  39. Scooter - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Very briefly (cuz I gotta go to the game), BABIP "luck" consists of three parts:- actual good pitching; make them hit a bad pitch- good fielding- good old-fashioned luck (bad bounces etc.)Nobody gets enough of all three over a full season to post a .207 BABIP, is the point being made above.Oh, and here's this; Dave Cameron is a pretty smart fella: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/a-few-thoughts-on-babip/

  40. Navy Nats Fan - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Low BABIP is a reflection of luck more than anything else for most major league hitters (and therefore all major league pitchers). Batting Average on Balls in Play is the reflection of the batter's ability to "hit 'em where they ain't." A shoddy defense will have a large amount of errors, but reaching base on an error is not an official at-bat so is not reflected in BABIP. A normal BABIP is .300; Lannan's .207 will not last. Enjoy it while you can.From a batting perspective, the exception to the BABIP norm of .300 is the over-the-hill slow catcher who always rolls over and hits a grounder. His BABIP will be less than .300. But pitchers don't have the luxury of facing only him. From a pitching perspective, the exception is the pitcher who throws mainly sinkers and gets a lot of groundouts. So Lannan could be expected to have a slightly lower BABIP than the average of .300, but .207 is absurd and indicates a lucky streak in play. He ought to be buying lottery tickets too.A pitcher who gives up a lot of fly balls might be expected to have a higher BABIP since some of them will be home runs, but homeruns are excluded from BABIP.So, FS – more or less confused now?

  41. HHover - Jun 23, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    .300 is a typical BABIP, but pitchers do vary. Lannan's career BABIP is .282, so his season BABIP of .279 is actually nothing extraordinary for him.JS is right that Lannan's recent BABIP of .207 is crazy good (for him and for anyone else), but realize that it comes after Lannan thru mid-may had a BABIP of .320+, which for him was crazy high. So to the extent that these things tend to average out, Lannan's BABIP already has, and expecting him to stay around .280 for the season is perfectably reasonable.

  42. Tim - Jun 23, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Eh… My point was that Lannan has been pitching well this season, particularly so these last few weeks. What are you saying that he has just been getting lucky? Statements like: won't continue, it can't — are objectively false. Stats like BABIP are descriptive, not prescriptive. It certainly can continue. Hitting a baseball is not a random event.

  43. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 23, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    Statements like that are predictive. They're certainly falsifiable, but not a priori false. I agree that hitting is not random, but it does have a certain amount of randomness in it.

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