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One Week in the Books; What Have We Learned (If Anything)

By Jason K. Thompson

Well, I guess you could say it was kind of an up-and-down week.

The Ups:
1. Every single pitcher on the team, except for Frankie, and maybe Rich Harden. I really hope Harden comes around fairly quickly. He could be such an asset to this rotation, which is already very solid. There will be more about Frank Franciso in the "Downs" section.
I love the way this rotation battles. Even if they give up an early run (or three), they stay out there and fight and allow the offense the chance to come back. Feldman has looked like an Opening Day starter and leader so far in his two starts, and CJ Wilson and Matt Harrison were very impressive, pitching themselves into and then out of jam after jam.

2. The defense and base-running have been great. This team doesn't make a lot of spectacular catches, but they can sure throw that ball. I've loved the plays at the plate, and how about Taylor Teagarden gunning down Ichiro at second? I think this team just plays the game the right way, and it's fun to watch. And they are really aggressive on the base-paths, even Vlad Guerrero! They've gotten thrown out a couple times because of it, but I'll take that along with Nelson Cruz taking second on every ball he hits to right field and Elvis stretching doubles into triples. They pay-off is going to be better than the sacrifice in the long run.

3. The middle of the lineup is carrying this team on their back right now. Hamilton has figured something out now, and has gotten his OBP up over .400, and the exploits of Big Bad Vlad and Big-belly Nelly are well-documented. Heck, even Joaquin Arias is more than pulling his weight these last couple of games. Now if we can just find a way to get Julio Borbon on base . . .

The Downs:
1. I don't quite get why Frank Francisco is still the closer. I had my doubts before the season began. Here's why: Francisco has not proven that he can be a shut-down closer for a long period of time. He had a few good months stretching from the end of 2008 to the middle of 2009, but that's it. In his entire career, that's it. Here's why Neftali Feliz should be the closer: 1) he's the most dominant pitcher in the bullpen, and maybe on the team, and 2) he's been a starting pitcher his whole life, which means he'll have no problem getting a 4-, 5-, or even 6-out save if we need it. I like the same thing about Dustin Nippert. He's been a starter, and I would love to see him be the 7th- and 8th inning guy in certain games. And we've got O'Day, who has been fantastic ever since we picked him up last year. AND Chris Ray has looked pretty good in his outings so far. That's the most frustrating thing about Frankie. We don't need him. We could lose Francisco and still have a good bullpen, yet Washington insisted on making him the closer. But I made a call and talked some since into Ron, and he said yesterday that Feliz will be the closer "for the time being." Hopefully it will be one of those situations where he performs so well that he never loses the job.
2. Um . . . that's it. I guess you could have complaints about the offense, like "they strike out too much," and "they don't get on base enough," but they're statistically in the middle of the pack in the AL in every offensive category, and the bottom line to me is that they've scored enough runs to be 4-1, except for the blown saves. And I'm a bottom-line type of guy.