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Updated: 2016-12-02T10:25:52.155-08:00


McCutchen - what's your price


The talk around the Nats getting Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates is heating up.  Personally, I don't think anything will happen before the Winter Meetings.  Why? Because it doesn't really make sense for either team to get the deal done right this second.The Pirates probably have several prices set in their mind for McCutchen. There's a price they'd love to get, a price they expect to get, and a minimum price they'd take if they had to. In order to get a price closer to the former rather than the latter, it makes sense for them to shop around McCutchen to the most teams possible and the Winter Meetings is a great place to feel out if they've completed that work. Of course the Nats can force the issue by giving the Pirates something close to that "love to get" price. But...The Nats probably have ideas to about what they'd give up for Cutch. What they'd like to give up, what they will give up if necessary. Right now all they can do is offer roughly what they'd like to and keep ramping it up if it feels like the Pirates aren't going to take it. The Pirates have all the leverage. Go to the Winter Meetings and get a feeling that the market for Cutch isn't that hot and then you've got some leverage and can keep the price low. Sure you risk someone coming in with a better deal, but if you know the other people involved and feel you are very likely to be able to outbid them, waiting makes sense. So I don't expect a deal to get done until Sunday or after. Sorry. But maybe I'm wrong!What would I give up for Cutch? I'd go two good prospects deep.  I would go Robles and Giolito or Robles and Lopez. But I love Cutch. Something I wouldn't do? Robles and Ross. Do I think Lito and maybe Lopez will be better ML pitchers than Ross... I guess so. But I think with much higher certainty that I know what Ross' floor is and that's still a major league pitcher. I don't mind giving away potential. I do mind giving away actual. Ross himself? Sure. But not with your best offensive prospect.What about Cutch himself? Contract wise it's a fine grab.  He's not super expensive (14 million) and the team has control over a second year (14.75 team option). He's normally worth so much more that even a big drop in stats would be still worth the price. And yet last year he wasn't worth it. The average dropped but so did the patience. His speed isn't quite there anymore. It may have been a particularly bad defensive year but the general trend is yes, he's not below average in CF. (Which is completely understandable as a guy who at his peak was probably just a bit above average).  The only thing that's holding up is the power. What do the fancy stats say? Is it bad luck? BABIP... a little low for him, even considering a speed drop. However the way he hits' the ball suggests more flyball and fewer hard hit balls. That's a good combination for lowering BABIP. The more flyballs thing has been a several year thing so it's the drop in hard hit balls (and increase in soft hit balls) that is driving this issue. So then we look at swings - is he swinging at worse pitches? Not really - swings on pitches outside the zone is down and contact on these pitches (usually bad contact) is down too. But that's another thing - He's making a lot less contact meaning the K-rate is up. Highest of his career - up four straight year. So if it's not the type of contact is it bat speed? That's not a bad guess.The gamble on him is then, that he will improve. I'd say there's a pretty good chance he will. The pretty good chance though is not of back to MVP level, just a mild general improvement, the defense won't seem as bad (it bounces around and was particularly low last year), the BABIP might tick up, the K-rate and BB-rate can probably be worked on a little as it doesn't seem to be a recognition issue.  If that happen then it's a good chance he'll be worth his contract and that means a good chance he'll be a good player.Can he be a great player again? That's more of a gamble but it is in the rea[...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Starting Pitching


Getting close to the Winter Meetings now.  Are you ready to be sneaking around hotels hoping to overhear bits and pieces of information like good little spies? No? You have jobs and lives? What good are you?   Last Year's DiscussionLast year's rotation was pretty set and we knew it. Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, and Ross.We didn't have any real issue with the plan. Yes, we worried about Strasburg's health. Yes, we worried about Gio's decline. Yes, we (well more "I") worried about Ross' limited history. Yes, we worried if  Roark could do it again. But these were all good bets to take and as a whole the biggest rotation worry was depth. After these five it wasn't clear who would fill in, especially early in the year.Well it turns out that didn't matter much early in the year. Stras would miss a couple games in June but the first 80 games were not only basically injury free, but free of worry as well. Max scuffled a bit in April but that cleared up fine. Roark did do it again. Strasburg looked good. Ross looked good. Yes, Gio really had us looking at alternatives after a poor May and June, but one pitcher in a rotation being in trouble isn't a worry. It's a season going well.At that point things unraveled a bit. Ross' injury in July essentially put the Gio issue on the back burner. The depth issue we worried about did not get clearer as the year went on and Lopez, Giolito, and Cole all struggled as replacements. Ross would never really get back and worse, Strasburg would be shut down as the year drew to a close. Now the Nats, who half-way through the year were four deep, were two deep and if they hadn't faced the Dodgers in the playoffs would have had a very tough call on starting the struggling Gio or the maybe healthy Ross.They made it to the finish line but just barely. Presumed Plan  Max, Stras, Roark, one of Gio/Ross, something new.Reasoning on Presumed Plan  Max won the Cy Young. He's got a huge long contract. He's in.Roark got a Cy Young vote (just one but it was deserved). He's super cheap. He's in.At this point we run into the problem the Nats would like to solve. They have two pitchers who they feel they can rely on (as much as you can) to be healthy and good. That means they have to hope things work out for one of the rest to set them up decently for the playoffs, which they presume to make. If it's Strasburg, great! It's hard to imagine him not being good if he's healthy. If it's not Strasburg then it's a question mark on how good a thing that is. Rather than leave it up to the fates again, the Nats would be wise to make a deal, and they've already floated out there that Gio is available and that they were willing to trade a starter last year.Even if they don't get a new starter, it's very likely that Lopez or Giolito (or both) will need to start getting some full-time major league work next season. They both handled AAA pretty well last year. It was in limited innings, so a second go around would be advisable, but it would surprise me if at least one of them wasn't doing well enough by the All-Star break to warrant a long look in the majors. It won't be Strasburg going though. Yes, he's got a team-friendly contract for someone with his age and performance record, but the injury history can't be ignored. His forearm issues probably make him expendable in trade by the Nats, but also probably make him not a target for anyone else. Perhaps if he came back fully last year, but he didn't. He's in.It could easily be Gio. He's much older than Ross and clearly on the decline. He's got value though. He's on a team friendly deal. You wouldn't be tied to a long contract - 2 years at most. He's not old (31 next year). He's durable. Plus teams could always use lefties. Of course that goes for the Nats too.It could also easily be Ross. Ross didn't do much wrong last year, but he also didn't make himself untradable, a la Trea Turner. He was more hittable last year, without improving in other areas. He failed to surpass the 150 IP mark he hit as a career high in 2015, leaving quest[...]

Max and the Terrible, Not-Good, Very-Good, Excellent, Just Good, Passable Cy Young Season


Max Scherzer won the Cy Young last Wednesday and I was taken to task for not celebrating it in verse and rhyme. Cy Young! That's great! We must gather together and feast in his name! Right? Well I can give you three big reasons why the celebration was a head nod and not a shout. First, there isn't anything particularly compelling about this. We've been pretty much talking about Max on and off all year. We know he's been very good. We realized he was a Cy Young contender and before the awards we noted he was a likely favorite. As a previous winner who wasn't short-changed in front of us it's hard to get all that excited for "excellent player gets his due, which he has also gotten before because he was an excellent player then as well". Second, Max was objectively better last year. No, he didn't win more games but other than a few Ks (and just a few 8 more in one fewer third of an inning) he walked a lot fewer, gave up fewer homers, and threw 4 complete games, 3 shutouts, and 2 no-hitters*. Third, let's face it Max got the "Clayton Kershaw got hurt, so who do we give it to now" Cy Young award. So there's why we're not jumping up and down in the aisles. But that's not to say Max doesn't deserve his due. So how did Max end up with a Cy Young? The short answer is the meat of the Max Scherzer season was amazing.As you probably remember, Max's season started pretty poorly. Seven starts in and his ERA sat at 4.60.  He had flashes of his dominant 2015 self but something was off. He wasn't unhittable. He wasn't as in control. And most disturbingly he was getting bombed, capped off by a four homer game against the Cubs. Giving up homers while not keeping guys off base - that's not just a bad combination - it's a losing one.Max had to get it together and he mostly did. Over the next few games he got unhittable again. He got back in control. He... well he kept getting bombed but as he let fewer and fewer guys on base those homers mattered less and less. Solo homers don't kill you. He didn't have perfect games, but he gave the Nats games they should win. Max seemed to be getting back into form. By mid-season, Max would conquer the HR issue as well. In June and July he'd have almost as many homerless games (5) as games with a homer (6) and only one multi-homer game.  He was on the top of his game. In 13 starts from June 1st through August 9th he put up these numbers. A .163 / .209 / .288 line against him. 1.7 BB/9, 11.8 K/9, 0.9 HR/9.** This was about as good as a pitcher can be over an extended period.  This 40% of an historic season is what got Max the Cy Young.Why do I say that? Because things starting to unravel a bit as the season drew to a close. While he kept the homers down, he started to get hit a bit again. He started to walk a bit again. It wasn't a big deal. Without the homers he was still keeping offenses down and it was still Cy Young caliber type pitching, but it was a break from the dominance we had started to become accustomed to. For instance, during that 13 game stretch Max had allowed more baserunners than IP twice. In the next 7 games he did it 4 times. As much as Max was rounding into form to during the end of May, he was falling out of it now.As the season ended all of issues that plagued Max to start the year were back. He was walking too many. He was getting hit more than he had all year and now the homers were back. It took guile and luck to keep the runs from getting on the board but he managed to mostly do that. It was a poor finish (4.38 ERA over last 4 games) but it could have been worse. While I still hold that it was that awesome middle that got Max the Cy Young, not falling apart at the end helped a lot too. He's not just a thrower, he's a pitcher and pitching well when he didn't have his best stuff kept the team in the game and the team rewarded him.See the funny part of Max's season is that while he was falling out of form to end the year the team really had his back. They would win every single one of his last 10 starts and he woul[...]

Trade for Sale?


Barry Svrluga host of "The Grind" book edition (makes a great stocking stuffer! No seriously. I have it, read it.) says that the Nats should trade for Sale. Do I agree? Yep. But before I  go into the why I pretty much exactly agree with Barry I can't help but be nitpicky.  The Washington Nationals’ 2017 rotation could easily be ...Gio Gonzalez, who has twice been an all-star and once won 20 games; and ...Did Boz ghostwrite your first paragraph, Barry? Yes, Gio was twice an All-Star and won 20 games. That was in 2011 and 2012. That was a long time ago and really doesn't have bearing on the Gio that's in the rotation now. The Gio of today is a durable middle of the road pitcher who is just as likely to strike out 8+ as he is to have control issues and go out before the 5th inning ends. That's not great it's... not bad. But add to that he's a lefty and he's an arm that ~30 teams would line up for to slide into their rotation as a #3/#4/#5 (depending how bad their SP circumstance is). Come on! You're better than that!Rizzo, as we’ve explained in the past, has a superb record of trading players. Those he has landed include Wilson Ramos, Trea Turner, Gonzalez, Roark, Ross, Denard Span, Doug Fister, Mark Melancon, on and on. The best player he has given up in such deals? Maybe Billy Burns? Maybe. Maybe it’ll turn out to be Felipe Rivero, dealt to Pittsburgh for Melancon, the closer at the end of 2016. Maybe it’s Derek Norris, who was once an all-star as a catcher. Jerry Blevins?Billy Burns? That's really the first name you toss out there? Tommy Milone beats Billy Burns.* It's totally Derek Norris. Though he's right it could be Felipe (this is why Barry is great and I'm nitpicking out of love here). Blevins doesn't really fit as he was a "We're mad you tried to get more money! Get out!" dump. It was a very very rare loss by Rizzo, that was saved from being even more apparent by Blevins' injury in 2015.OK that's it! See Barry is great! Really that's only one true nitpick and one bit of confusion. That's usually gotten to in the first paragraph of a Boz column when he's off.Anyway another thing I wanted to pull from that column though. “Imagine that in the playoffs,” one executive said Wednesday. “And Sale being there would completely take the pressure off Strasburg.” I thought Max was supposed to take the pressure of Strasburg. Do they seriously think Strasburg is such a headcase that he needs TWO Cy Young caliber pitchers ahead of him to make him feel comfortable? I personally don't believe that. You can just peruse his stats and see he's fairly consistently very good. But if you do, why the hell do you keep someone like that on the team which a big contract? Just saying.OK so Barry's point is the Nats should trade for Sale and should basically let the White Sox pick what they want (assumes not Turner). Ross, Giolito, Robles, Lopez, etc. He thinks it's time that the Nats move forward. Stop being good enough to get to the playoffs. Start trying to be good enough to win in the playoffs. He think Sale's contract (12m 2017 team options after that, 12.5m, and 13.5m) is an incredible bargain.He's right across the board.At least that's my thinking. It's not that the Nats have consistently tried to get away with just a couple good starters for the playoffs. Really the only year you can say that for was last year when they went in with Scherzer/Stras and hope someone steps up. But in doing that they did end up with only 2 great arms for the playoffs and that did put them in a bind. They don't want to end up there again. You could try to count on Scherzer/Stras/Roark, but if one gets injured now you're hoping for a Ross development or something out of the blue. Adding Sale makes you very confident that if you get to October you'll have three studs ready to go.As for the prospects. They are prospects. Most don't develop into what you hope they might be. That's just the truth. We don't have 10-20 All-Stars entering the league every ye[...]

Tuesday Quickie - Awards


Trea Turner did not win ROY.  That is not surprising as Corey Seager was an MVP candidate and also a ROY candidate. It's tough luck for Trea, assuming he loves awards, but far from unfair.  We talked about this near certainty a few weeks ago while the season was in play.  Where do the other votes stand now?

Remember - votes are before the season is over.

NL MOY - I disqualified Roberts because the Dodgers would actually win fewer games this year. Apparently though he is the front runner. Yes, I know they had lots of injuries. But there's something funny to me about the idea of bringing a guy in, having him win fewer games than his predecessor, then proclaiming that he did the best job. Especially when he's competing directly with someone that was brought in and proceeded to win 12 MORE games than his predecessor.

I had Maddon taking it for sure if he got to 104 wins. He didn't. He got to 103.  I then said Dusty had a chance if the Nats were within 5 games of the Cubs. They weren't they were 8 games behind. So I'll say it finishes inexplicably Roberts - Maddon - Dusty.

NL MVP - Bryant or Murphy (as Seager would take the ROY) Final Lines

Bryant :  .292 / .385 / .554 39 HR 102 RBI
Murphy : .347 / .390 / .595 25 HR 104 RBI

It's close but Murphy had the better offensive season. Bryant had more patience and a bit more power (Murphy lead league in doubles and even had a couple more triples than Bryant) but it didn't make up that huge gap in average. Factoring defense and base running is always problematic but the general consensus between stats and scouts is that they go to Bryant. That alone probably puts Bryant over the top. Beyond that the Cubs won 103 games and were the best team in baseball. Everything says Bryant

NL Cy Young - Since we know the Top 3 we know how some things shook out. Bumgarner and Syndergaard both made the playoffs but neither had the lights out finish to the season that would put them over the top (Noah was much closer in that regard but given the love of MadBum I bet Madison beat him in votes... we'll see). This is also true of Jose Fernandez, who wasn't on pace to make the Top 3 prior to his tragic end.

Final lines
Hendricks : 16-8, 2.13 ERA, 170K, 0.979 WHIP
Scherzer : 20-7, 2.96 ERA, 284K, 0.968 WHIP
Lester :  19-5, 2.44 ERA, 197K, 1.016 WHIP

Hendricks has the best ERA and they love ERA... but not as much as wins. Plus Hendricks thing was having the lowest ERA since Gibson and he slowly but surely lost that. I think he finishes third.  Lester had the strongest finish, most wins, best winning percentage and a lower ERA than Scherzer. Scherzer had by far the most strikeouts and a lower WHIP, and is seen as the most dominant non-Kershaw* pitcher out there. I think it'll be close but I think the general feeling favors Max and I think there will be some "Well I didn't vote for a National for the other three awards and I don't have a favorite here so here's your bone" going on.

*Kershaw's final line 12-4, 1.69 ERA, 172K, 0.725 WHIP.  0.725!!!  His outside chance of winning even pitching 70 fewer innings than these guys was ruined by a lack of run support. You heard me. He went 12-4 with a lack in run support. 27 runs scored in his last 11 games by the Dodgers. Overall it just looked bad but the Dodgers scored 29 runs in two games for him. If we take out these (and even take out his two lowest in fairness) he'd drop much closer to the bottom. 

Propsects runway


Chelsea "Don't came me James" Janes says in her latest piece that the Nats have "plenty of upper- and mid-level prospects who continue to garner interest from other teams"Do they?I had a feeling that the Nats farm system was ok but top heavy, meaning Turner's graduation and the cooling on Giolito would have significant effects. I went back and looked and saw the Nats system ranked pre-season anywhere from 5th to 17th.  I lean more toward the latter. So let's look at some top and mid-level prospects and see what kind of interest teams might really have.The Big 4 Giolito - Was basically the most prized pitching prospect going into last year but he didn't live up to that highest of high hype last year. He was in and out of the majors and each time in was a failure. He was hittable and gave up a ton of homers, 7 in 21 innings. There was also questions about a decrease in velocity which is a big deal for someone who already had arm surgery. And his AA numbers arguably took a step back. Still, he will be only an "old" 22* next year and everyone loves his stuff. His AAA numbers last year are exactly what you want to see. He's a 2017 or 18 full time player. The idea of him coming into the majors and immediately being a #1 type may be fading, but the idea of him being a very successful pitcher a few years down the line has not. His stock will drop a bit probably from Top 3ish to Top 10ish, but with very watchful eyes those first couple months. Turner - off the tableRobles - A name that got a lot of attention as he did really well in A ball as a "young" 19 year old. He didn't do as well in A+ ball but he did better in his second stint after injury. There's a question on whether he gets power but right now the promise of his age wins out. Likely moves from a Top 30ish prospect to a Top 15ish. If he develops power he'd be a Top 10. Optimistically projects for a 2019 full-time role at 21-22. Lopez - Like Giolito his time in the majors wasn't great, but unlike Lucas there were times you could point to what he was doing and feel good. Sure, about half of them were against the Braves but you gotta start somewhere. There was a lot of talk about him "breaking through" and maybe being better than Giolito as his K's went way up in AA this year. But they went back down in AAA, and dialing things up in MLB to get more meant a big increase in wildness. Like Giolito he's a 2017-18 full time player. Like Giolito I think that ranking is very tentative and could change radically in either direction based on just the first couple months. Unlike Giolito I'd expect his pre-sesaon stock to rise from a back quarter of Top 100 to a Top 50 ish player. The next tierGlover - Live arm who showed potential dominating AA with Ks and AAA with control. Trajectory says its hard to see how he doesn't end up set in a major league pen next year, if not to start then sometime. Could be a potential lights out closer - however that's a phrase tossed around for a lot of live minor league arms. Will break Top 100, probably in Top 75. Cole - I'd love for Cole to get into the Top 100 of someone's list again because I bet he'd be the only guy to ever be ranked in someone's Top 100 in 6 different seasons. 2016 though was the first time he wasn't and nothing about last year changes that. Might develop into a back end starter but at 25 and looking at his 4th year in AAA he's more of a throw-in than a key piece. Difo - The anti Giolito/Lopez, Difo was not bad in the majors, but in the minors he did nothing to raise his stock. His brief flirtation with pop in 2014 has faded and he's back to being seen as a speedy slap hitter. It's not entirely clear where he fits now. Major league bench? AA? I'd imagine most see him as a AAA which means 2016 is a make or break year for the "young" 25 year old if he's going to be a starter in the majors. Fedde - He's on the cusp of being a top prospect and should be in the bottom of a few Top 100s. There i[...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield


Last Year's DiscussionAt that point Revere hadn't been traded for so the presumed plan was Werth, Bryce, and MAT getting his shot in CF. Why MAT? We thought it was clear the Nats wanted him as the CF of the future and that he did well enough in 2015 to get a chance. Span was dismissed because the QO was too expensive for a guy that couldn't play much in 2015. I thought playing Werth was reasonable given his late season performance and the reality of the Nats situation. If you play Werth than a strong fielder in CF is the better play and that was Taylor not Span. I did however, say they should try to get Span on a team friendly deal as giving MAT another year of seasoning wouldn't be a bad idea. Failing that, I advocated for a strong OF bench to compensate for Taylor. How did it play out? Well first off the Nats traded disgruntled closer Drew Storen for Ben Revere, which essentially re-demoted MAT for two seasons unless he busted out. It seemed like a smart move at the time but Revere would get injured early and would never hit like himself putting up a .217 batting average when he averaged ~.300 over previous 4 seasons. MAT failed to capitalize and hit exactly as he hit in a cup of coffee in 2014 and 130 games in 2015. Very low average (.231), some pop (7 homers in 76 games) too many strikeouts (32.5% rate - would have been 2nd worst if he had enough at bats). It was so bad that SS of the future, Trea Turner was moved to play CF and he was so good! .342 with 14 doubles, 8 triples and 13 homers and 33 stolen bases. In just 73 games he was ROY good in any year that didn't happen to have a rookie that was also a legit MVP candidate.Surprisingly Bryce was an issue. A dip was to be expected but Bryce didn't just dip he dropped below what you probably would have had as his floor. A mediocre .243 batting average and only 24 homers.  Injuries and mind games (PETE MACKINNON STARTED mind games) caused a stumble early in the year and what HAS to be a lingering shoulder-area issue hampered his second half.On the plus side Werth bounced back with an acceptable year at the plate. It was a lot of bouncing around with punctuated moments of hot play but that was enough for an old player coming back from an injury that lost him a productive 2015. Still a stiff in the field.All in all it didn't work but the CF and Bryce issues were fairly surprising so it's hard to fault the Nats. Presumed Plan  Werth in LF. Bryce in RF.  Something new in CF.Reasoning on Presumed Plan  Werth hit well enough to take his last year in the field. Circumstances with Zimm mean that can't be at first so LF is where it's going to be. Generally you might see Rizzo move this type of player for something that could help the Nats in the future, but the contract makes Werth untradeable. You could argue a fading 38 year old starter should be replaced anyway but on the surprisingly long list of the Nats fixable issues, this doesn't even register. Bryce starts because even crashing through the floor of his projections he was a useful bat and a solid, if unspectacular, corner OF. Given he's still under team control he's a bargain. You just have to hope he's healthy and you see a big increase in performance next year. On CF we just don't know yet. We know they'd prefer if Turner played SS. They've now floated out there that Danny's available in trade. It would be very hard to go into next year with either Revere or Taylor or some sort of platoon as Plan A given how badly that failed last year. That leaves them to do something different. A trade is most likely given what the Nats are selling as their payroll limitations, but don't rule out a FA signing if they can get that money deferred. Unlike catcher I don't see the options being that limited and thus really can't put a finger on exactly what they will do.Problems with Presumed Plan  Bryce could be hurt again and if so he won't put[...]

Various news dumps


We had an election and if you wanted to dump some stuff out on the public, the last few days was the time to do it. So a short recap of the Nats news stories over the past few days.

Nats don't give Ramos QO

Some people debated it but that's only if you believe the injury risk Ramos is going to be worth playing at least half the year next year. Otherwise it's hard to see how he affects the season enough or gets ready fast enough to matter for a possible post-season. Nats obviously are thinking that's optimistic so take pragmatic route.  It is still possible he re-signs here. Don't rule that out.

Nats would trade Espinosa

This only makes sense to me if they feel he is going to be a liability on the bench. I'd rather have him that Stephen Drew and they are basically the same player. The trade market for Danny would be there, but would probably be slim. He's only an impactful upgrade if you are terrible at short and not a lot of contenders are. A Gott like return would be best Nats could hope for. And they might go for that. Rizzo likes his arms.

Nats aren't going to be big spenders

Doesn't mean they will not make a big deal but it would have to be a deferred one or something else that doesn't raise next year's payroll that much. Nats payroll is basically what it was last year. Granted there are not a lot of promising FAs out there. This is more about trades. We didn't notice much because of the winning and the lack of obvious need, but the payroll add in-season was again non-existant. So stop expecting the Nats to trade for anyone that will cost any money.

Bryce won't play in WBC. Max might. 

Someday someone will get injured during this and there will be an outcry. It's unlikely for any single player though. Let's hope it's not a Nat. 

Offseason Position Discussion Third Base


I elect... to talk about Anthony Rendon! HAHAHAHHSHAHSHAHSI'm terrible.Last Year's DiscussionWe had Rendon starting because it seemed to be the direction the Nats were heading. Remember in 2015 Rendon played 2B because Yuney was at 3B to start the year and didn't want to change.  Man the 2015 Nats were stupid about things.  We worried a little bit about Rendon's extensive injury history but realized that without a doubt he should be in the lineup somewhere. 2B gave them more options in theory but 3B was fine and probably where he belonged in a perfect world.A lot of the problems with Rendon at third weren't about him, but about Yuney who was still on the roster at the time and needed a place to play. You put Rendon at 3B and Yuney probably moves to SS? That isn't good. But neither was 2B or anything really.  But hey! It didn't end up being an issue. Yuney was dealt.Rendon started very slowly. Thirty games in you had reason to begin to worry. He was down to .218 / .289 / .297 in Early May.  But after that point Rendon hit like he did in 2014, putting up a  .287 / .364 / .494 line. Unfortunately things ended poorly - he hit only .150 in the playoffs. Still you look at that 130 game run that was like his fringy MVP year in 2014 and his continued plus fielding and you have to feel good about the future.My OOB plan was trading Giolito (as usual) for Arenando. That would have worked out fine but any out of the box plan for the infield means not signing Murphy and Murphy was the best so basically the Nats plan was the best.Presumed Plan  Rendon starts at 3B.  Espinosa is the bench replacement for this and all IF positions.Reasoning on Presumed Plan  We talked about how Espy ended up on the bench with the SS discussion. There's been some talk about how he's not a great bench guy but you can't let a guys feelings effect whether he starts or not. If he can't handle being on the bench you trade him then.As for why Rendon plays 3B, well I think we just covered it. He's most comfortable at third base. The stats and scouts agree, he fields the position really well. He can hit really well when healthy.  At this point he hasn't turned the corner from his .285 20 HR very good bat to something more special, but he's hitting his prime (27 in June) and if he can stay healthy this will be his first back to back healthy major league seasons so there's hope for that too.We had talked before about moving Rendon to 2B because he can play there and it frees up 3B, an easier position to fill. Now though Daniel Murphy is at 2B so this isn't an issue. This is an obvious move.Problems with Presumed Plan  The biggest issue with Rendon is the obvious one. He gets hurt. A lot. He basically hasn't had back to back healthy years since starting college? High school? So expecting him to be healthy for all of 2017 is more than just your normal gamble.As much as we can focus on the 130 games where he hit like he did in his best year, we can't deny those first 30 games happened.  If you want to be real pessimistic you can look at the last 2 seasons and see a guy that might be an average hitter, not an above average one.It is arguable that it still makes sense to play Rendon at 2B, even with Murphy.  Murphy would then move to 1B, Zimm would sit and your offense and defense would be better.My Take Yes, Rendon gets hurt a lot. What, are you not going to play him? He's young enough you can still hope that he puts that behind him - at least for the next couple of years.  He's good enough that you can't give up on himYes, you can spin it so he doesn't look like a very good hitter. But (1) even as just an average hitter his plus fielding makes him a startable third baseman and (2) it's a lot easier to spin it to make him look like a very good hitter. He got i[...]

Monday Quickie - Bryce was he hurt? Or was he hurt? Or, possibly, was he hurt?


So this bit of info came up during the "Year in Statcast" show last night.

Short of it is - at the end of the season Bryce's arm died and as a result he started shifting in defensively. We all saw it, the shifting at least, but here is the arm strength evidence that backs that up. Will the team finally admit it now?

If a pitcher suddenly lost 4 MPH on his fastball you wouldn't just shrug your shoulders and move on. You can't just say "maybe it's a slump throwing the ball" as the Nats tried to do explaining away Bryce's drop in performance at the plate. Clearly he had a physical ailment that was negatively effecting his play. 

Now of course that doesn't mean the Nats were lying about the shoulder. But they were almost certainly lying about him being healthy and being purposely misleading about the shoulder. Outside the actual shoulder joint you can get away with saying it's a neck issue, an upper back issue, an upper arm issue, or a chest issue. It's all connected.

What does this silly subterfuge affect in the grand scheme of things?. Not the play on the field. No team looked at Bryce and thought "Well he looks hurt and can't throw and can't get his arm up to hit but if the team says he's healthy we won't try to attack that". Not the support of the fanbase in a meaningful way. No fan looks up today and thinks "Oh, they lied to us about Bryce's health! I'm done with the Nationals!" Where it matters is probably in the relationship between the reporters and the team. They were fed a bill of goods and reported those back to us. The team made them look foolish. So further reports will probably be taken with far more skepticism and if the reporters are any good, will be followed with as much digging for corroboration as possible. All for what?  I don't know.

Anyway tomorrow I'll tell you Anthony Rendon should start at third. Prepare your spit takes.

Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop


Last Year's DiscussionWhat? No link? Well, I didn't do one! Went 2nd to 3rd to OF. Huh. From reading 2B and 3B the idea was Yunel Escobar would play SS because it got Rendon back where he should be and it would be easier to transition Turner to SS that way. Also with Danny at 2nd and Rendon at 3rd, Yuney's defensive issues would be hidden. It wasn't a good plan and I'd rather they sign Zobrist (Espy to SS) or trade for Frazier (Rendon to 2B, Espy to SS) and sell high on Yuney.As we talked about the did sell Yuney, whether it was high or not is a question (Hey. It's Trover Gitts!) and ended up signing Murphy which worked out pretty well in my opinion. Going out on a limb there.What happened with SS? It fell to Danny with Trea Turner set up to come in if needed later in the year. Danny was terrible to start ( a .199 / .300 / .281 line after May 25th) which prompted the fans to begin to push for Trea Turner early. But the Nats stuck to their guns and Danny would be literally one of the best hitters in baseball in June and would go .303 / .394 / .713 over like 6 weeks.  That's like an MVP performance. By then CF had emerged as a gaping hole and so Turner was brought up to fix that, not SS. While performing great there, Espy crashed back down to Earth going .169 / .266 / .270 over the remaining 74 games, but there was little the Nats could do at that point.Presumed Plan  Trea Turner is your starting SS. Danny Espinosa is back-up for 2B-SS-3B on the bench. Reasoning on Presumed Plan  Rizzo doesn't like to be put into situations where he is forced to do something. That's exactly where he will be after this year if the Nats don't make a change. Danny goes to FA. Either Trea shifts to SS, to which Rizzo has to get a CF, or Trea stays in CF, so Rizzo has to get a SS.  Unless you love Difo or MAT these are facts. To be pro-active you look at getting someone now, and CF/OF makes more sense. It's generally an easier position to fill and it gets Turner back in the infield where most think he belongs. Turner at SS is the future for the Nats and there isn't a good reason not to start that future now if you can. As for Turner at SS itself, Turner did everything you wanted him to last year. He crushed it at the plate over almost half a season (.342 / .370 / .567) and in his fleeting moments in the infield looked perfectly acceptable. If he can play SS, and it's generally thought he can, then you play him there. This is the same reasoning as with Murphy. A SS that hits like Turner can be a big advantage. Sitting Espinosa is not going to hurt the offense. He can hit at times, but he's a boom and bust type, with more bust than boom. His pop might be missed a little but his inability to make contact won't be. Problems with Presumed Plan  Turner's fielding prowess at SS is a great unknown. Like I said the general thought was that he can do it just fine, but talk of moving him to 2B isn't too far in the past. We know Espinosa is a plus fielder so that does matter. It especially is important given that Murphy is a minus fielder at 2B.  Not a big one, but still a minus. Danny helps cover for that. If Trea is merely ok, or even good, that still means more hits up the middle. And that's not going into the internal knowledge Danny might have manning the IF for this team for 4+ years. How do you work with Rendon, throw to Zimm, set up for various pitchers. The little things add-up.Add to that while Turner did hit in his almost half a season, that's still only almost half a season. He likely won't match those numbers next year. The smaller the offensive gap is between Espinosa and Turner, the more the defensive one might tip the scales. Getting someone this year just shifts that issue from next season to this season. You still have to do it. My Take I d[...]

Game 7 - Watch it!


We can talk Nats tomorrow.

Also Maddon was not wrong in the Chapman usage. This is really driving me crazy but the idea that somehow pitching a relief pitcher in two straight games is setting him up to fail, or the fact a day off isn't enough to recover from a particularly long relief session is wrong. At least I think so, well actually I know so for the former, and I think so for the latter.

So bringing him out in the 7th when an errant pitch could have brought the Indians within two and the heart of their line-up coming? Makes sense. Pitching him in the 8th because you already got him up and it's still the heart? Makes sense. Pitching him in the 9th because you didn't have someone ready because you were still going to pitch him in the 9th if it was a 5 run game and the HR came late?

OK that was pretty dumb, but it was only a few pitches!

Anyway - go great game!

Offseason Position review so far : C, 1B, 2B


Pulling stuff from the commentsCatcher Is resigning Ramos possible?   I suppose. In theory he could be ready in mid-April (6 month recovery) but from all I've read that seems quick and even June (8 month) would probably pushing it for a return as a full-time catcher. Early talk had the recovery taking as long as a year and Wilson is not the healthiest of specimens. It's just hard to see him impacting next season. And there's a question if Ramos would even take the Nats bid. Apparently he wants a 4-5 year deal. Money hasn't been talked about so perhaps what he is seeking is security. Either way the Nats only wanted him for 3 years before the injury.  I don't see how they sign him for even longer than that.  There's also the money question - as was pointed out in the comments - spending 17 million on a catcher that doesn't play is going to eat up the bulk of what we expect the Nats have freed up. It was tough enough to work when you were paying less annually to a healthy Ramos. Now? Forget it.Basically I think it's a bad idea for the Nats to put out the QO because it's quite likely they'll only get two months or less of play. It's a bad idea for the Nats to offer a long-term deal because Wilson is very likely going to have to move from catcher sooner rather than later. It's a bad idea for Ramos to take a short term deal (2 years) from the Nats because it probably leaves a money or years on the table he could get in FA. I don't see it.A lot of people are fine with Severino because they assume Danny will be replaced by Trea and someone good will play in CF. That's an ok plan. One hole is workable. However in an NL line-up one-hole is only an injury/crash/Zimm away from creating an easy 7-8-9 situation, so set that up on purpose at your own risk. Personally too, I like Danny more than Severino as that 8th. However, I do understand that finding an ok CF/OF is probably easier than finding a catcher. As for other targets - buying low on Norris would be an interesting gutsy call, but a gamble. Drew Butera never hit before last year. I mean like never, not in minors either. No. I don't like signing Weiters. At this point you have to say he is who he is, right? And that isn't that good.First BaseZimm isn't going anywhere. I thought I made that clear. I don't think he can be traded. So don't go down that path. What they can do, and what some of you said, is that they can make a deal later in 2017 for a 1B or OF if Zimm keeps not hitting. I'm pretty much on board with that, or at least I'm accepting that that is probably the best likely option to happen. I do have Zimm starting at first.Some people suggest Difo here, to take over for a shifting Murphy. I don't know. He's 25 to start next year and hasn't seem to solve AA pitching yet. I think he'll get eaten alive in the majors.  And the Descalso idea? He wasn't bad last year but that's in Colorado. Maybe if he were a couple years younger but not at 30. I'd buy him as a bench player though, why not? Encarnacion is a fun thought. He's 34 next year and probably looking for that same 4-5 year deal, meaning he's likely a buy for a win-now team who will suck up the 37/38 years at the end where he might be useless. The Nats, by all rights, are a win-now team. However this isn't the type of move they make. Werth was an all-around great player and younger. Scherzer was a star. Edwin is a great masher but that's it.Other names - Kendrys Morales - if you got him cheap maybe. Way up and down over past few seasons. You don't replace with a question mark unless it's a cheap one. Carlos Beltran - I'd love it for a year only. But given he's never played first I'm guessing that's not going to happen. He's worth more as a DH and can probably finagle [...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Second Base


I sometimes forget that not all of you have been reading my every word for a decade so a quick refresher on these posts.Presumed Plan : What I think the Nats are going to doReasoning for Presumed Plan : Why I think they Nats are going to do it. Basically why it makes sense for them. A lot of it is "Why it could go right" but not all. Sometimes your hand is forced. Problems with the Presumed Plan : Why it could go wrong.My take : Basically more talk with an eye on if I think the Nats are making a mistake, with a little "if I were GM" thrown in.Outside the Box Suggestion : Something just reasonable enough to suggest that almost assuredly won't happen. Not the best plan, maybe not even a good one. Just coming up with something different.Ok moving onLast Year's DiscussionSo at the time last year it didn't look like the Nats were going to do anything. They had Yunel Escobar, who hit above expectations; Danny Espinosa, who hit perfectly acceptably for a defense first guy; and Anthony Rendon, who we all assumed would start hitting when healthy. They didn't need to make a move. They just needed to figure out where to put people. Personally I was advocating selling high on Yuney and starting Trea (also noting that I expected Stephen Drew to be a bench player), while hoping the Nats would sign Zobrist. However I expected to see Rendon at 3B, Yuney at SS, and Danny at 2B. It was on hand and it would work just fine. Lo and behold the Nats DID sell high on Yuney. They shipped him off to literally Anaheim, figuratively LA, for Trevor Gott. That left the Nats with a hole that they did try to fill with Zobrist, who chose timely payment for services rendered and signed with Cubs, and then Brandon Phillips, who only wanted to move if he got more money in the deal*. So the Nats went with Plan C signing the underrated competence of Daniel Murphy to play second.BOOMDaniel Murphy, who flipped a switch in the 2015 playoffs, ended up making that a life change. He put up MVP type numbers for the Nats last year hitting .347 / .390 / .595 for the year and carrying the Nats to first place. I always liked Daniel really! Keep reading, you'll see where I'm going. I always liked Murphy. I had him in fantasy for years. I had pretty good knowledge of Met players from the combination of Nats games, WFAN, and general baseball following. I knew he would hit decently and I felt his defense and baserunning issues were slightly overrated and WAY overrated, respectively. Sorry Gary Cohen. But even then I didn't see this coming. I had him giving value to the Nats for the contract, but nothing more. Certainly nothing like last year.  I'm not sure anyone saw it coming. Murphy surely didn't or he wouldn't have signed that deal. The Nats surely didn't or else they wouldn't have bothered going after Zobrist and Phillips. Nope last year was a complete and utter surprise** in the best way and the Nats are reaping the benefitsMy OOB plan - Trade for Longoria, move Rendon to 2B - would have worked too. But pretty much because the Mets couldn't stay healthy and mount a good challenge. Obviously in hindsight the Murphy signing was the best possible decisionPresumed PlanMurphy starts at 2ndReasoning for Presumed PlanSee 2016 ...ok that's a bit reductive, but only a bit. Murphy can make the routine plays at 2nd. If someone can do that and hit like Murphy does, that's a big plus. 2nd basemen don't hit like that. So you keep him at 2nd.Problems with Presumed Plan Murphy cannot play 2nd well. You can argue that. You are wrong. His career defensive stats agree with the scouting reports which agree with pretty much everyone's eyes. At best he's below average. So you're losing something by putting him at 2nd instead[...]

Offseason Position Discussion : First Base


Last year's discussion A lot of last year's discussions were obvious. The Nats were pretty much set all over the place. For first base, my take was no different than pretty much everyone else's. The Nats were stuck starting Zimm because even though he was rarely healthy (156 games played in 2014 and 2015) they had him on a big contract deal and when he did play - he hit, so there wasn't an obvious upgrade without spending a lot of money.  I noted it was a bad position for the Nats as they pretty much had to do this and it was almost sure not to work. So good for me on nailing that because it didn't work at all.Zimm still got injured (missed 40+ games) and now lost his ability to hit, putting up a .218 / .272 / .370 line that was a Ryan Howard away from creating the worst first-base situation in baseball. The assumption that Robinson would help mitigate the problem didn't work out either as Zimm was healthy enough to play a bulk of the games and Clint only put up a .235 / .305 / .332 line when he did get to hit. First base was a disaster and in my mind is the Nats biggest problem going into 2017*My out of the box plan would have been fine but not earth-shaking, at least not for 2016. Trading Zimm and starting Robinson would have probably produced better results. How much better? Probably just a little but every bit counts I guess. More realistically it would free up the Nats to make moves now based on the idea that first base needed an external solution. As for who the Nats got back I basically said trade him to the Mariners for any of their failing OF prospects (re: Not Alan Jackson). Would any of them had worked out? Austin Wilson - no. Gabby Guerrero - no. Patrick Kivlehan - no. Jabari Henry - no. Brayan Hernandez - eh.  Tyler O'Neill - yes! Ok let's say the Nats got O'Neill then! ... ok the trade would have been a nothing but the contract (or at least some of the guaranteed money) would now be freed up - so overall win.Presumed Plan The Nats start Ryan Zimmerman with Clint Robinson as his back-up.Reasoning for presumed plan If Ryan Zimmerman was almost untradable last year - to the point I had the Nats eating money and taking back a mediocre prospect from a thin system - then he's literally radioactive this year. Coming off his third straight partial year, having his worst offensive performance ever and still owed at least 48 million over the next 3 years (that inclues 2 million buyout at end) no one is touching Zimm, not unless the Nats eat 90% of this deal. Zimm's on the team then.Ok well if he's on the team he likely gets at least one more crack at playing first full-time. Last year was a disaster, yes, but you can look to a few things to give you hope heading into 2017. First, last year was the only year he hasn't hit. Even when spending half the year on the DL, he was an above average bat when playing. He had an OPS of .858 in May before facing injuries the rest of the year. The fancy stats don't suggest he's hitting the ball too softly which is usually a huge warning sign of being done. He spent a lot of the year hitting the ball as hard as anyone.  His post-season performance (6-17 with 2 doubles and 3 walks) was promising.If Zimm gets another crack at first, it only makes sense to give Robinson, a good hitter in 2015 who is cheap and compliments Zimm's RHB, another crack as his back-up.Problems with the presumed planIt's pretty obvious, isn't it? Zimm's always had an issue staying on the field.  Last year he wasn't just a bad hitter, he was terrible. It might have been a slight aberration but you have to think the most likely scenario for 2017 would have him playing say... 100 games and hitting like .230 with [...]

World Series!


Watch it.

Well if you want to, but I'll remind you that this will be the last real baseball for 5 months.

I had the Cubs at the beginning so I'll stick with them. Seems like the smart way to go. If you want a length... I'll go with another 5 gamer.  The pressure was about getting to the World Series.  I had a pretty good playoff prediction set there. So far only miss was Indians over the Blue Jays.

Some various playoff factoids you might have missed

After the Cubs and Indians all the championship droughts are for expansion teams. Senators/Rangers, Astros, Brewers, Padres, Expos/Nats, Mariners.

It's pretty amazing though that if we don't count the Expos/Nats as one thing, the longest WS appearance drought is "only" 40 seasons (Mariners). Every avid baseball fan 45 and older has seen every team that has made a World Series in a World Series. In the past 10 seasons, 13 different teams have made the World Series.  In the past 19 seasons, 20 teams have. So basically every adult has seen 2/3rds of the teams in baseball reach the World Series.

The Dodgers have now lost 4 consecutive NLCSs, accounting for 4 of the last 9.  They were also the last team to lose back to back CSs (2008-09 to the Phillies) before Toronto took that crown from them this year.

Since it started 5 years ago the AL wild Card has featured 9 different teams, the Orioles this year were the first repeat team.

AL WC teams are 1-4 in the DS, the only exception being the World Series reaching Royals in 2014.  NL WC teams are 3-2 in the DS.

The ALCS hasn't gone 7 games since 2008.
The last 4 World Series have gone 5 games (Road win in finale), 7 games (Road), 6 games (Home), and 4 games (Road). The last 5 before that went 7 (Home), 5 (Road), 6 (Home), 5 (Home), 4 (Road). That's a pretty good run of different types of series. We need a 4 game-sweep winning at home or a 6 game series, winning away to help complete the set.

If you're curious - last 6 game winner to do it away is the Marlins in 2003. Last 4 game sweep to end at home was the Yankees in 1999.

Offseason Position Discussion : Catcher


I'm going to mix it up again tacking on the last-year revisit before looking at this year.Last year discussion revisitedMy take ended up being just roll with Ramos and Lobaton as planned and hope for the best. It was a pretty easy take. Catcher can often be a barren position and if you didn't want to sign Weiters (and I didn't) then you really didn't have a better choice than sticking with Wilson and his improved defense. Maybe he would hit?Well of course he did hit, better than ever, presumably thanks to LASIK. For a long stretch, basically all of June and July with a bit of carryover into the adjacent months, he was one of the best hitters in baseball. He hit .350 / .403 / .596  from May 29th through August 7th. It got overshadowed a bit on the Nats because Murphy was doing even better but that's team carrying offense right there. Plus his defense remained sharp. Even though he sputtered toward the end of the season (he hit .232 / .272 / .352 starting with the Cleveland series in early August) and got injured at the very end, he was an extremely big reason the Nats were as successful as they were in 2016. Ramos' rise was doubly important because Lobaton showed only a mild turn around slapping his way to a .232 / .319 / .374 line. On one hand, that's not all that good. On the other hand, for a back-up catcher you probably aren't going to find much better, especially if you focus on his split vs RHP (.262 / .344 / .393)My outside the box move - trading for Derek Norris - would have been a disaster. I wanted Lucroy but I always want Lucroy so I went for something different. Norris crashed and burned after three years of being a good to very good hitter. My deal actually shipped out Yuney (fine), Storen (great!), and Ramos (ugh) for Norris and Melvin Upton. Before you wonder - no he wouldn't have been any better in CF than Revere/MAT.  Ok maybe a little but that's not saying much.OK onto this yearPresumed Plan : Rizzo will trade for Stephen Vogt or Wellington Castillo. Reasoning on Presumed Plan : OK the Nats can go four ways. First they can do nothing and go with Lobaton and Severino.  This, in my mind, is a non-starter.  Lobaton had an acceptable year in 2016 but it was after a couple of really rough ones. Last year was probably the best you can get out of him and trying to match that means playing him as a pure back-up (39 games played) against RHP only. That means it's not really a gamble on Lobaton and Severino, but a gamble on just Severino. Oh sure, Pedro hit .321 with a handful of XBH but it was in an extremely limited 34 ABs. You are betting not on that Severino as much as the Severino that hit .271 with no power in 80+ AAA games, and the guy that hit .250 zero power in 90+ AA games the year before. Severino has never hit for an extended period of time and expecting him to do it in the majors at 23 is a fool's gambit.The second way they Nats can go is try to sign their catcher of the future. Unfortunately there isn't one out there. Matt Wieters was supposed to be the prize but he couldn't come up with a decent 2016, hitting for low average with little patience. After him though it's dire with probably the oft-injured Alex Avila being your best bet for a 3-4 year catcher. I'm serious. There isn't a catcher of the future here that I see. Free agency is not the long-term answer. Moving on...The third way is finding a stop gap. Who is that stop gap? I'm not sure but Kurt Suzuki is a decent choice for his durability, ability to hit lefties and familiarity with the team. If not him ... well I'm kind of at a loss. Everyone else is pretty much worse (Iannetta, Salty, [...]



I guess we'll start with the offseason reviews next week. Makes more sense to start it clean on a Monday, no?

Anyway this offseason is the most interesting for a Nats team in a long while. Or at least it has the potential to be interesting. You can honestly say that you can't be 100% sure you know who's going to be playing where on Opening Day next year. Sure you keep Murphy, Rendon, Bryce, and Trea, but are they going to be where you think they are going to be? Move Trea to SS then Bryce could play CF. Somehow get rid of Zimm and Murphy shifts over to first leaving a spot for possibly Rendon to go back to 2B. Werth's in his last year and amazingly you could get something for him. Do you trade him? Are the Nats done with Espinosa? 

The rotation is more set - but only in the fact that you can put Scherzer #1 in pen.  Who's #2? Strasburg? That's assuming he can pitch Opening Day. Roark? If you don't trade a guy who's arguably never going to be worth more. Gio? A far more likely trading chip than Roark given his reasonable salary and the fact you aren't giving up multiple cheap years when you deal him. Ok, Ross will be in there somewhere. That's the other given. The pen is going to be dependent on what they do with closer.  Do they try to shift Kelley or Treinen? Does the other one stay in the 8th role? Where do all these other arms fit in?

Individually none of this stuff is really all that likely. Strasburg appears to have no issues that'll keep him from pitching in April. He almost pitched in October. Rendon is playing third. They aren't trading Werth or Roark. They can't deal Zim. But as a whole all these possibilities combine to create a lot of uncertainty with the 2017 Nats. If any one domino falls, everything else can change and most likely a domino will fall.

This makes the "assumed plan" part of the offseason in reviews a little tough. So what am I going to assume? I'm going to assume the 2017 Nationals look a lot like the 2016 Nationals at the end of the year. Zimm, Murphy, Danny, Rendon around the horn. Bryce, Trea, and Werth in the OF. Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Roark, Ross as the rotation. Pen roles stay as is. Why? It's the path of least resistance. The Nats can recreate a 2016 team that won the East and nearly won their DS by doing nothing. Seems certainly plausible that they do just that and fritter around the edges filling in bench guys and bullpen arms that leave for greener (re: $$$) pastures.

That leaves the only true questions as C and closer.  I'll have to think more on what I'll assume the Nats plan is there. We're just guessing here so there are no wrong answers but I don't want to be unfair here. What do you guys think for these two? Do you think they are going out to get something or just shifting in house? I've got my leanings but I'm willing to be convinced that the assumed plan should be something else.

Monday Quickie - Rizzo goes nowhere


Mike Rizzo won't be the GM of Arizona. At least not anytime soon. They hired Mike Hazen. On one hand, everyone seems to like him and he has a work pedigree that includes some of the more successful current franchises (CLE, BOS). On the other hand, Arizona just did something similar to this a few years ago and it didn't work out. Also if you are looking for a strategic edge, hiring a GM that's young, ivy-league educated, and into the business/analytic side of the game is not exactly going to give you that. Plus it's Arizona, I'm sure Hazen is terrible then. His 1 year track record (under Dombrowski's heavy hand I'm sure) is less than impressive. Kimbrel move didn't work. Carson Smith was damaged good. Aaron Hill did nothing. Ziegler was a nice pick up I guess.

Anyway enough about the Diamondbacks. Rizzo is what we're talking about here. He won't go there which is one of three places I'd assume he'd want to go (the other two being the Chicago teams and those both look unlikely - Theo in entrenched in Wrigley with all the wins and Kenny Williams runs the White Sox with all the being friends with Reinsdorf) Good. You can complain about Rizzo here and there but the macro-level view has been very positive, especially if you make the seemingly fair assumption that he's very limited in mid-season transactions.

Is there something about the way he's built this team that it fails to get over the top? Maybe, but I have a hard time seeing it. It's talented. It's pitching based with a couple of aces. It had a strong back end of the bullpen. It can manufacture runs, but also hit a HR. It's got veteran leadership. All the general "this is what you need in the playoffs" boxes are checked off by this point. It seems far more likely that the 2016 Nationals were a victim of sports playoffs being what they are meant to be. Good teams playing a short series / one-game that often comes down to who plays slightly better.

Could someone do better here? Perhaps, but again I get the sense that working with the Lerners can be frustrating at time. A bit tight with money in odd places (I like to say "pound wise, penny foolish"). Sometimes prone to go over his head, especially with Boras clients. You need a guy with just enough lack of ego to take those in stride and keep getting his job done as best he can under the circumstances. Seems like Rizzo does that, I'm not sure all guys could.

Like I said I can find some faults with Rizzo. His gambles in drafts on injury prone talent create a fairly top-heavy farm system where depth can be an issue. He doesn't seem to get along well with managers (which will be interesting because Dusty has never left a situation well). He can be overly reticent to deal young talent mid-season that could afford the team a stronger return under the assumed financial constraints he's under. But I consider these minimal, I mean look at the wins. What's the alternative? That there's dynasty here being held back by Rizzo?

We'll get into specifics more this week - positional overview and all that, but the off-season is already off to a good start. Rizzo isn't going to Arizona.

Post Mortem


I've said before but for me a game is far more often lost than won. That winning is less about making great plays and more about avoiding mistakes. It's not always the case but that's how I look at sports (kind of life too if I'll be honest) and that's going to be a lot of how I look at this game right now. This doesn't mean I don't think it was a pretty well played game and series. I think both those things. It's just how I see things play out in terms of deciding who win and who loses.Anyway let's take a look at the key moments from yesterday and see how we ended up here today. Pre gameDodgers start Rich Hill. There are arguments that can be made for starting a pitcher on short rest. They are difficult arguments to win and none apply to Rich Hill. You saw Urias. He was pretty good, wasn't he? He should have started and Roberts was lucky he didn't get burned worse by this decision.Bottom 2Lobaton can't get the ball in play to possibly score another run. Espinosa had just come up with a big hit and the Nats had 1st and 3rd with one out. If you're Lobaton, you have to hit it hard and hope for the best. Yes, a double play is certainly possible, but so are sacrifice flies and fielder choices. You can score a run on an out here fairly easily. With the pitcher spot looming behind you it's even more imperative to get that ball in play as he is unlikely to drive the run in. But Lobaton fouls off two pitches and then strikes out. Scherzer would follow with a K of his own and the Nats would only score once.Top 3Dodgers let Max off the hook. Max pitched well last night, but it was obvious early on he didn't have his usual control. If the Dodgers could take a smart approach to facing him they could have him out early, maybe even sometime in the 5th if they were really lucky. Maybe that's without scoring but still the advantage the Nats had going into last night was Max. Get him out and it's a brand new game.  He sat at 35 pitches with no outs in the 3rd inning and had just thrown 5 straight balls. But then the Dodgers' brains locked up. Toles swung at a strike at the bottom of the zone and grounded into a double play. Rich Hill swung at a first pitch ball and grounded out himself. Now not only was Max not on the ropes, but he was set up for a long outing. A simply terrible approach that for a long portion of the game sat with me as the key moment.Bottom 3Werth can't get the ball in play to possibly score another run. Hey if I'm going to get on Lobaton I have to get on Werth here too. Turner had singled, stole second and advanced to third on Bryce's deep fly ball to center. With his speed almost any GB out, or halfway deep FB scores Trea. But Werth strikes out on five pitches. There is a slight difference as at this point it didn't feel as precarious for Hill as it did earlier.Anthony Rendon's liner goes right to the CFer. Rendon had a bad series, but he really squared up on this one. There's no fault here - it's just a shame as it would have scored two. Top 5With the bases loaded, Max strikes out Ethier and gets Utley to ground out. After being no-hit for 4 innings the Dodgers finally got to Max with three singles. I'll note here that the last one, by Toles, might have been caught by a better 2B as Murphy was caught flat-footed then couldn't reach it with his jump. It would have been a very good play but I think it was possible. Anyway with both singles going to Bryce and that last one having a chance to be caught, the Dodgers hadn't managed to plate a run. The Dodgers brought in Ethier to get a big hit but Max struck[...]

What is there to say?


Not as gutting as 2012.

Not as infuriating as 2014.

But in the end, same result.

Should have won this game. Scherzer wasn't on the top of his game but he had enough big pitches and got enough breaks to get the Nats to one out in the 7th with their opponent scoring only one run. The Nats should have been winning by more at that point. They were not. After that the Max vs whoever advantage was lost and it came down to the pens and the Dodgers arms and moves were better than the Nats.

Sigh. Well do what you need to. Vent. Swear. Get it out. I'll be back tomorrow as usual.

G5 Evening Post


For those that would like to comment during the game on here... I guess I should look into a chat client or something. I don't know. That seems like work.

G5 Morning Post


Here we are. Staring at the most important game in Nationals history.

It's true that it's not the most important game in the history of DC baseball. The Senators won World Series! But the last time they were in it was 1933 and they barely were in the playoff picture after that. Twist my arm and I'd say you could make an argument for the double header the end of the season in 1945 season being as important as this game because if they won both they could have set themselves up to go to the World Series but the Tigers played three games after than and controlled their destiny*. So it's not quite the same. Senators/Rangers didn't come close to playoffs. So we're arguing at best there was a bigger game played in DC baseball history 83 years ago, at worst 71?

It's true that it's not the most important game in franchise history. That was G5 of the 1981 NLCS but there isn't anybody in DC who cares about the strict interpretation of the franchise and I'm not going to argue that they should.

It definitely eclipses the games in 2014, and surpasses the previous "most important game in Nationals history" G5 of the 2012 NLDS because that game was not as team defining. The feeling after that game, other than devastation about how it went down, was that the Nats were a young team that just got their playoff experience and that they'd be back. It was a tough loss but no one was ready to give the Nats a label just yet.

So again here we are.

A win changes everything surrounding the team in terms of its impression of itself. A win makes Dusty a DC legend of sorts.

A loss cements the Nats and Dusty as chokers in the national consciousness, until they are not.

Fair or unfair as it is (pretty unfair in my opinion), this is where things stand.

The Nats should win tonight. It should be fairly easy. The Nats bats should continue to do better than the Dodgers bats. Max shouldn't give up more than a couple runs. Rich Hill should not pitch much better than last time, given he's on short rest. The Nats bullpen should be a little more rested than the Dodgers. The Nats shouldn't end up getting 2 DPs that completely erase the trouble Hill got into.

But should is should. Max should give up a couple runs instead of none, given his pitching lately and the match-up. Lobaton should do something other than hit a 3-run homerun. The Nats should still strike out a bunch, as Hill has been doing exactly that since coming back.

Not all "should"s end up being "did"s and if the wrong ones go against you that's all that matters.

Ok here we go. See you at game time!

*As you can guess the Tigers did what they needed to and went on to the Series. They needed to win the last game to avoid a 1-game playoff with Washington. They were down 3-2 heading into the top of the 9th and Hank Greenberg hit a grand slam. That's big time baseball right there.

Max-imum Pressure Part 2 - this time it makes more sense


Max Scherzer called this the most important game of his life. It's true! At least playoff wise. Max has never started a "Win and your in, Lose and go home" playoff game. However he has started several "Lose and go home" games or "Win and move on" games

"Lose and Go Home"
2011 ALCS - Detroit down 3 games to 1.  A wild Scherzer gets bombed by Texas, not making it out of the third. Final line :  2.1 IP, 5 hits, 4 walks, 6 ER. The punishment doesn't stop. Detroit loses 15-5. 

2012 WS - Detroit down 3 to 0.  Scherzer puts up a pretty standard effort against Giants. 6 and a third, 7 hits, 1 walk, 8K, 3 runs. Tigers though can't score more than 3 themselves and Coke loses it in 10th. Tigers downed 4-3.

2013 ALCS - Detroit down 3 games to 2. Scherzer is wild but battles. 6.1 IP, 5BB, 4 hits.but only 3 runs. Tiger though can't manage any significant offense and Red Sox and lose 5-2.

Overall Record : 0-3
Overall Performance : Eh. First time out was rough but gave a winnable performance the other two outgins.

"Win and move on"
2012 ALDS - Detoit up 2 to 1. Scherzer goes 5.1 IP, holding Oakland to 1 unearned run on 3 hits and 8K. Pulled a little quick maybe but Dotel in relief did his job. Valverde though blows it in the 9th. 4-3 A's. 

2012 ALCS - Detroit up 3 to 0. With zero pressure Scherzer pitches a gem. 5.2IP, 2H, 10K. Pulled at 98 pitches mainly because they could with a 6 to 1 lead. Tigers win eliminating the Yankees 8-1. 

Overall Record : 1-1
Overall Performance : Pretty good. He seems to be a bit wild, as he tended to be back in the day, but also hard to score on. Perhaps the pressure on the other team worked in his favor which would bode well for tomorrow.

Max-imum Pressure


For the most part Game 4 was a lot like every other game in this series. Close and not particularly well-pitched by the starters. Kershaw pitched the best game of the series by either team so far hands down and it probably didn't break "good"*Just so you can see the differenceStarters NLCS : 7.18 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 3.2 B/9, 10.4 K/9Relievers NLCS : 1.88 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, 11.8 WHIP(without the Jansen blow-up the reliever stats become : 0.82 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, 12.0 K/9)Kershaw was ok, throwing in a space that allowed him to dominate the bottom of the Nats line-up but struggle to put away the top. He wasn't being hit particularly hard so he was able to escape more often than not. Ross, on the other hand, was not ok. He was somewhat predictably unable to throw his fastball past this lefty heavy line-up. This left him trying to work the strike zone with only off-speed pitches, which really isn't what they are meant for.  It didn't work nearly enough to be effective and in a crucial moment he was left in at least one batter too long.Why did Dusty do it? Same reason you start Ross in the first place. You are looking for innings, looking to try to save the pen. Dusty was trying to squeeze one more out from Ross, so he wouldn't waste a pitcher. In the end it didn't work, Ross would walk Reddick, then plunk Pederson; and it didn't matter, as the Nats would go 1-2-3 in the next inning saving the pitcher spot from coming up.** However, Game 4 was a bit different. All these games are being won or lost by the pens but that hadn't meant what it usually does. Games 1 through 3 were won or lost in the 5th-9th as one or the other bullpen manages to hold on to the lead their team got off the opposing starter. Game 4 was a more typical game, won or lost in the 7th-9th as one or the other bullpen lets in the deciding run. It was almost the Dodgers - as they failed to get the single out needed to hold onto Kershaw's lead. But then it was the Nats, with Blake Treinen giving up the game after seemingly being in control. After 4 games, here's how things stand for the Nats. The bullpen arms have been very effective. The two runs scored yesterday were the first two scored off them all series and it's not like they haven't been out there. This also includes Lopez who is more of a long-man than a reliever likely to be used in any crucial late game situation. The starters have not. No reason to go into it because all that matters now is Max in Game 5. The top of the lineup is getting it done - Turner is hitting .353, Werth .467, Murphy .462.  Bryce is getting on at a .421 clip. The bottom of the line-up is not Rendon is hitting .188, Espy .091, C .188 (yes with one big homer), as well as the bench, 1-9 PH (with a SF)  Drew 0-2 filling in mid-game, Severino 0-2 filling in mid-game.What's all that mean? The Nats are playing like a normal team right now. They aren't hot. They aren't cold. This is them. And if Max is Max on Thursday, that should be more than enough to get to the NLCS.  *line wise it won't even be that and thus it'll be another notch on the "Kershaw can't pitch in the playoffs" belt, but we all saw it. It was fine. **this would actually happen twice in the game saving the Nats a couple arms  [...]