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WHOseanders and Whatsiglories?

Updated: 2017-08-18T12:52:05.901-07:00




Strasburg has been all but put on the mound for Saturday's game. It's still not official. He's not on the probables, but I haven't heard anything about him not pitching. That means the "non official" status is all about getting one more day from someone on the roster before they have to be moved for Strasburg to come off the DL. I'm not reading anything into it. There could hardly be more favorable conditions for a pitchers return. It's his hometown (he pitches well on the West Coast in general). The weather is good. It's a twilight game (thought to favor pitching - and this year and historically he pitches better during the day). It's against the lowest scoring team in the National League in one of the most run depressing ball parks. He's following Scherzer which means there isn't going to be much pressure on him to eat up innings.This is being gently eased back into the pool, inch by inch.What am I looking for? Nothing much beyond throw ~90 pitches of decent baseball.  I suppose I'd like to see a higher percentage of strikes, as it was his control that was going that last game.  The velocity isn't an issue. It wasn't one before he left so it shouldn't be now. I mean, don't get killed obviously, but I'm not going to throw up any alarms for a 4 run, 5 1/3 outing where he has good control. Even with such favorable terms, it's still his first game back in the majors, and I still only care that he's healthy, not that he's ready to potentially shut down the Dodgers next week.Other notesThe Nats are feeling the offensive woes from all these injuries but thanks to the solid pitching staff taking on some weak offenses the Nats haven't felt it in the win column. They've scored 3-3-10-3-3-2-6-3-2-2 runs in their last 10 games, and it took a walk-off grand slam to get that 6.  I'll be curious to see how the Nats hang through the Astros - Mets - Miami - Mil stretch.  Still it's just for curiousity's "what if Bryce doesn't come back" sake. Standing wise you can go ahead and assume HFA for the NLDS and a #2 seed overall. They are up 9.5 on the Cubs, and trail the Dodgers by 13. And if Bryce does come back in time to get back in the swing of things, how the Nats did without him hardly matters.  Kelley is back and Madson is down. Madson hurt his finger. They are going to sit him and hope it feels better in a week. That's the only good news that accompanies all these injuries. The Nats are so secure that every one that happens they can sit people and let them take all the time they need because there is nothing in doubt. Kelley has been in Syracuse and has pitched to a 1.80 ERA. Sorry that's a typo. I mean an 8.10 ERA. Ouch. Most of that was early damage though. He gave up 5 runs in his first three outings. In his last 5 outings (4IP) he's given up 1 run (a homer of course), striking out 3 and walking none. He's as ready as he'll ever be.Updating that injury post : Scherzer did come back. The finally are ready for Kelley. Raburn still sits in limbo until roster expansion (maybe)Werth is still nowhere, last seen jogging bases apparently waiting to see when he can run and it hasn't happened yet. After having the team point to a general time frame and missing that, it's hard to figure when he'll return at this point. That's really the only bad news the Nats have had on the recovery front. Strasburg was delayed an additional week but as we said should be back Saturday. MAT was brought up very early that 3rd week.Drew is taking grounders and seems to be on schedule for an return sometime this month. Turner is as well but still needs to swing a bat before he can get a rehab assignment. End of the month seems more likely and I'd be surprised if he wasn't with the team by Labor Day weekend. Glover has seemingly gotten the clear to ramp back up but given his current state is probably still a month away. Any setback but the mildest one would probably put him down for the year. [...]

Howie Kendrick - Secret weapon


Howie Kendrick has been on a tear since joining the Nats. .386  with 4 home runs.  That can't last can it? Well, no but It isn't impossible that Kendrick has one last really good season in him and this is it.

Kendrick, we discussed earlier, is a high average guy He hasn't hit over .300 since 2008 but he's had a .291, a .297, a .293, and a .295 since then. The last one was as late as 2015 so the thought he could go not only over .300 but well over .300 isn't that far fetched. Especially given his moderate 33 year old age.

We noted that he didn't have a lot of pop. His career best HR total is 18, second best 13. He's not much of a doubles hitter either - career best 41 but next best 33. But this season... this season is different for a lot of people. The league isoSLG (SLG - AVG, basically pulling the singles out of slugging) was under .140 then last year it jumped to .158, this year it's over .170.  That's not a HUGE difference .140 to .170 but it's the difference between last year's MAT and last year's Werth. The difference between a guy hitting 26 doubles and 17 homers and a guy hitting 28 doubles and 21 homers. A half-step up at least.

Well what if you have a guy that always has made good contact, who always hit the ball hard far more than he hit the ball soft, who tends to put the ball in play and drop him into this environment? Seems like he's ripe to take advantage of that. Maybe not for as much advantage as the guys that swing for the fences all the time* - I'd like him to keep up this bombing if he hit more flyballs - but for getting those frozen ropes to now carry into the gaps? Yes.

Ultimately this may present an issue that we wouldn't have thought but was brought up in the comments. If Kendrick is now a guy who can hit .300+ with reliable doubles power, if he's a guy who can field left moderately well and who is more than an outside threat to steal a base... don't you have to consider starting that guy over Jayson Werth, if he gets back?

The Nats probably won't do that. Werth is more than a player, he's a totem. He's someone the team rallies around and someone the fans identify as the face of the good Nats. This could very well be his last season here. If he's ready, he'll play. And let's not forget Werth has shown he's a smart, adaptable hitter. He would likely take advantage of the souped up balls as well. He was already on pace for 25+ homers in a 140 games or so season before going down. But Werth can't overcome the defense gap that would only be worse with a gimpy foot, and his smart though not all that fast baserunning would be affected as well. It's very likely down the stretch in 2017 that Howie would be the slightly more valuable player.

*This would be an interesting thing to look at. SLG has gone up. Who gets the biggest push? Is it guys with a lot of fly balls or guys with a lot of hard hit balls? It would suggest the guys to pick-up / avoid when something changes in the equipment being used.

Strasburg's coming


Probably.Today is probably the biggest day - he threw a real 75 yesterday (well actually a real 66 - then another 9 in the pen because A ball isn't exactly a challenge for a guy who could be a #1 in a major league rotation) and felt good. All signs say he could be back this weekend. Feel normal today and I don't see that plan being derailed. Then the real review begins as we watch him for a start or two in the majors as he's forced to go all out for 100 pitches a couple times in a row. That's something we never saw post-recovery last year because he just slid from injury into the post-season. We've verified that about a month is enough to get him back to where everyone thinks he can keep pitching. Now we just have to see that they are right.Gio Night!Gio has had his best season for the Nats since his first year here. Why is that? How did someone seemingly declining through age at a slow and steady pace turn things around? Has he turned things around?The second is a real question because if you look at the first fancy stats we generally look at, FIP and xFIP* and BABIP, it looks like Gio is skating along. The FIP stats suggest a "true ERA" of closer to 4.00 and the BABIP is extremely low and the lowest of Gio's career. This all suggest some extended amount of luck.Part of that is true. Gio has been lucky. However what that means has changed over the course of the yearMonth  ERA  FIP  xFIP  BABIPApr 1.62  3.82  4.41  .258 May 4.37  5.85  5.08  .297 June 2.53  3.29  3.85  .221 July 2.14  3.30  3.89  .193To start the year Gio pitched ok but got very lucky and got great results. In May, Gio pitched terribly but got lucky and looked passable. In June Gio pitched well and got maybe a little lucky. In July Gio pitched well again and his luck again kicked in.So in the first two months of the year Gio pitched ok to terrible but got SO lucky that he looked fine. Since then, while he's still seen luck drive his ERA down, he's pitched quite well.Now I keep saying he's lucky but if Gio is generating a lot of ground balls and soft contact - well that could explain a lot and that's on him, not luck.  We'll compare to last year. Ground ball rate? It's down. It's actually the lowest it's been for a few years. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Gio's always been naturally a flyball pitcher and the attempt to become a GB pitcher a couple years ago may not have suited him. His HR/FB rate is a little low, but it always has been. Gio has been a flyball pitcher who's been able to keep the balls in the park. There was thoughts when he came over from Oakland that it was park based but nope it's him. What does this mean? It means that the xFIP up there - which tries to normalize HRs - is probably more off than the FIP which doesn't. Except for May, that's good for Gio.Soft contract is up a little and hard contact down. about 3 percent for both. That isn't nothing. But there is something else here that I found a bit interesting. Guys are pulling the ball more than ever against Gio and hitting the ball to the opposite filed a lot less. This generally isn't a good sign. It means guys are getting around on your pitches more and probably making more contact in general (K rate, swinging strike rates and contact rates suggest that's true a little bit) but there could be some deep thinking going on here. RHB are now pulling almost 7% more balls than they used to up to almost 46%. They are also hitting over 6% fewer balls to the opposite field. LHB are pulling more balls as well (about 3%) but are hitting more to the opposite field as well - more than 5% more.What is the overall picture to what's going on here? Gio is getting A LOT more balls hit to the Rendon - Turner - Bryce side of the field than the Murphy - Zimm - Werth Statue park in right.  By my quick and dirty calculations he's gone from having like 36% of batted balls going to the "good side" and 29% to the "bad side" to 44% to the good and 25% to the b[...]

Monday Quickie - Down but not out... well out for now


There was one over the weekend story and that's the injury to Bryce. For those of you who think negative lines of code have been insert / d into my programming, let me tell you that I was firmly on  the "who knows, let it play out camp" and reviewing the footage of the Eaton injury said "Oh. It doesn't look like that".  I went on to hazard a guess that it wasn't a tear and he wouldn't be out for the year. I also noted I know basically nothing other than what was said above and my opinion is close to worthless.

But it turns out that Bryce doesn't seem to be hurt that badly, that the MRI shows no major ligament or tendon damage, and while the timeline is still fuzzy, there is certainly potential for him to be back for the playoffs. It could be even sooner but let's be honest, few of us care whether he's back August 20th or September 20th.

This isn't to say "I'm right." This is to say "That is where the (admittedly sparse) evidence suggested the most likley outcome is (based on my low-informed opinion)" I am giving the same sort of take when I speak about Strsaburg who's about to pitch in Potomac tonight. Ideally he will go 5 innings and throw around 75 pitches. If he feels well he could join the Nats in time to pitch against San Diego on Saturday. He was hurt on July 23rd and would return to pitch on August 19th. That's fairly close to a month which is what a calm review of the initial injury seemed to suggest as the most likely scenario based on the admittedly sparse evidence fed into the low-information opinion producing me.  We can disagree but I'm not crazy here.

So what does the Bryce injury mean? A lot. The Nats are an offensive juggernaut. That is how they win games. They are second in baseball in runs scored per game (to Houston) well past 3rd place Colorado. We are used to the Nats being led by their arms, and backed up by a very good offense.  Here's a quick ranking

2012 : 1 3 5
2013 : 6 11 6
2014 : 1 2 3
2015 : 6 6 3
2016 : 2 2 4
2017 : 3 15 1

Now obviously the relief pitching is now better than 15th. But is it dominant? Probably not. And the starting pitching isn't dominant either as a whole. No, what's carrying the team in 2017 is the offense.  Bryce isn't the offense by himself as he was kind-of sort-of in 2015, but he IS the best offensive player the Nats have. He was hitting  .326 /  .419 / .614 at the time he went down. You don't replace that. Guys like Stevenson, Goodwin, Kendrick, might catch a good week or two but eventually the Nats will feel it.  MAT is back and Werth could be coming back. That may help but they aren't Bryce. Rendon is a great bat. He's not Bryce. Zimm is having a decent August holding off some decline fears. He's not Bryce. They will score fewer runs. They will lose more games.

Will that matter? For the next 7 weeks - hell no. They are up by 14 games. The next best team in the NL East sits at 4 games under .500. They could literally take off two weeks, forfeit the games to give their team a rest, and it wouldn't matter.  After that it most certainly will. To win as it has in the regular season the Nationals need Bryce Harper.

This isn't to say a Bryce-less Nats team couldn't survive, even thrive in the playoffs. Even without Bryce the team is games above .500 and you put that kind of team with a Max level starter in the playoffs and it can win. But it'll probably have to win in a different fashion than it has been all year long.

Straction Day


Actions speak louder than words. However, what happens when you have limited access to the actions?Over the past... now 18 days, there's been a growing argument on how to view the injury situation with Strasburg. I tend to advocate a reaction that is more "action based". Set your view and wait until you find out about some action that may alter it. Most on the other side have gone with a more "word based" reaction. Let the team set the view and don't let your own opinion get in the way because there are unseen actions taking place. Neither is wrong and have certain strengths and weaknesses. You can appear foolish if you follow my way if things are quickly settled in a way contrary to how you thought they would. On the other hand, following the other way may make you seem foolishly naive, if the source of the information, even if they are the best available source, is unreliable - either by choice or chance.* In this particular case, my way has proven pretty strong. Strasburg's injury resembled last year's injury so assuming that it would follow a similar path and need perhaps a month away from starting, seems to be the way it will eventually turn out. All the while the team has sent out a string of milquetoast positivity, suggesting that Strasburg's return is closer than it has turned out to be. There were another set of words yesterday from the team, but finally there may be actions behind them that we can hold on to.  Rizzo said Strasburg could be pitching right now and they are just being cautious with him. In itself, pretty meaningless. Rizzo said the same during Strasburg's recovery last year. Strasburg pitched again and said he "felt really good" yeseterday. Again, in itself pretty meaningless as he said that earlier in this injury recovery . But the actions yesterday (and hopefully today) matter.Yesterday Strasburg pitched a simulated game, an important step on the road to recovery. This is much more than a bullpen session where you throw 30-40 pitches and see how he feels. Instead, he throws a simulated inning, sits, comes back and does it again, throwing probably 50 or so pitches with that important break, cool down, and return added in. If this goes well then he should be in line for a real recovery start, my guess would be Sunday or Monday, in the minors and then back with the team in the majors for a start at the end of next week. Not ultimately the best case scenario, which I had pegged at missing 3 starts, but close as he'd miss only four I think.That's the next action we need to see. And while I consider the words to be pretty meaningless we could hear something important today.  At the tail end of July Strasburg through a bullpen session they thought went very well. They said if he felt well the next day he could just miss one start. This was followed by conspicuous silence. There was a similar feeling coming from the team yesterday. If we hear that Strasburg is on track for a recovery start today (or maybe tomorrow) then everything lines up. We've seen the actions we want, and we've gotten the words we want, and if he's moved somewhere we get an important set of confirming actions. If we don't hear anything today or tomorrow, well I'd be worried. I'd still have to see Strasburg not be assigned anywhere, or regress in his recovery, before I take it back down but it would be a bad sign. So keep your ears to the ground today. It just might tell us whether to renew worries, or to get ready to set them aside. *To be honest - most times these different approaches arrive at the same place because really we're both just waiting for confirmation on the type of injury from the team. It's only in these types of unclear situation where the differences can become apparent.  And really it's not like either side is ALL action or words. It's a mix for both, just what takes precedence is different. [...]

On Nicknames


Back in 05/06 some of us internet followers of the Nationals had what we thought was a great idea. Saddened by the seeming lack of modern nicknames in the vein of those of old, we would try to bring them back by giving a new young star player a nickname reminiscent of one he'd receive in the pre-war era.  So Ryan Zimmerman, he of the German last name, was christened "Dutch" Zimmerman.Now it is not surprising at all that this didn't take off. A few dozen people on the internet (at best) are going to have a tough time making something like this into an on-the-field reality. However, what was surprising was the unearthing of a group of people who found the idea of fans giving a player a nickname extremely offensive. "NO!" they said "He already has a nickname! It is ZIMM! and it was given to him in the CLUBHOUSE! How dare YOU think you can name him!" Honestly I still don't know what to make of it.That is the truth though. Most players do get their nicknames through the clubhouse and since writers don't stand between us and them nearly as much as they used to, the "Sultan of Swat"s and "Sey Hey Kid"s of old have been replaced by "Mac"s and "Jonesy"s   They are utilitarian unimaginative nicknames much like, well regular nicknames. Thomas becoming Tom or Tommy isn't the height of inspiration.A weekend in late August we'll see the Nats featuring a bunch of nicknames on the back of their jerseys and it gives us a good cross-section of the different types of nicknames around a baseball team.The most common is the last name shortening. This usually takes one of three forms; the "straight-shorten", the "shorten and add an s", and the "shorten and add a y sound".  You see two of these types for the NatsStraight-ShortenDaniel "Murph" MurphyStephen "Stras" StrasburgRyan (ed note - sigh) "Zim" Zimmerman  Sean "Dooooooooo" Doolittle*  Chris "Heis" Heisey Shorten and add a y sound   Matt "Wiety" WietersJose "Lobi" LobatonMatt "Albie" AlbersMatt "Gracey" Grace - case where your last name is only one syllable thus can't be shortenedAnother popular nickname derivation is combining the first initial with a shortening of the last name. Think A-Rod. The Nats have their share of these as well.First Initial - Shorten Last name Brian "B Good" GoodwinEdwin "E Jax" JacksonTanner "T Ro" Roark  Others name and initial plays are seen as well. The shortening of the first name, like the last one. Basically your traditional nickname. Anthony "Ant" Rendon Oliver "Ollie" PerezThe use of the last initial or both initials Joe "Joe B" BlantonJoe "JR" Ross Gio "Double G" GonzalezJayson "Dub" Werth Or both first name shortening and an initial!Michael "Mikey T" TaylorAll of this is very standard and typical. We also have simple nicknames based on some physical attribute, like "Shorty". This can be a bit more creative but a lot of times it's putting the adjective "little" or "big" in front of things. Nats are a little better here though with an actual comparison for a nickname from their injured CF.  Max "Blue Eye" ScherzerAdam "Mouse" EatonLast we get to a group of standard nicknames that are around the game. For baseball some are limited to Little League ages, like "Slugger" while some carry on.  Drew's one of these guys Stephen "Dirt" Drew. Finally we get the interesting ones. Ones that come from somewhere other than the obvious derivations. Bryce "Big Kid" Harper - I've never heard this before, but actually it's been out there  Here's Ian using it in 2015. There's a Span tweet with it too. Seems like it caught on in clubhouse around that time. Trea "Triple T" Turner - This isn't an initial thing (His middle name is Vance). It could be as simple as "He hits triples" (led the team last year despite playing only 73 games - still leads team this year)Koda "Bear" Glover - Koda is a Cherokee word for "bear" or so they say.Shawn "BAK PAK" Kelley - no clueAdam "Donnie" Lind [...]

Monday Quickie - Good news, bad news, good news


The Nats were 6 outs or so away from losing 2 of 3 to the Cubs. That wouldn't have been a terrible outcome, probably the expected one playing another talented team on the road. However, it would have left the Cubs 5.5 games behind the Nats for HFA in the NLDS, continued the momentum of the Cubs, and would have set up the narrative for the time being. Instead the Nats rallied back took the game and put the idea that the Cubs might catch the Nats record on the back-burner. It could still happen. Seven and a half games in under 3 months is far from unheard of, especially when you are being chased by a souped up former champion. But as of today that's not the story. The story is the Nats setting themselves as the clear 2nd best team in the NL.

The story is the bullpen, as we got a taste of what are likely going to be the roles for the pen going forward (despite the attempts to tell us there are no roles). Kintzler to Madson to Doolittle. They pitched 5 2/3 innings in the series, seeing this order twice giving up 3 hits, 1 walk, and striking out five. Most importantly they gave up no runs. I don't personally have 100% confidence that any one of these guys isn't going to give up a couple hits, maybe a run in any outing. These aren't shutdown guys. But I do have confidence that if one does falter, the other two are likely going to be able to deal with the problem created. The Nats pen has been less an issue of individual failures, which happen, than cascading ones. A bad outing leads to a deficit that never seems to go away. The pen puts the Nats 3 behind, the Nats get back 2 runs, but the pen gives one right back. The Nats looks set up with the heart of the order for the ninth but the pen gives up 3 in the top of the inning. And so it goes. It's that kind of feeling that I don't have anymore, the helplessness of feeling the game was constantly teetering on the edge of unrecoverable disaster after the starter existed. That's gone.

The bad news? Strasburg is not listed among the Nats next 4 starters which means Strasburg is missing his next start. That's three. Does it mean doom and gloom? No but it means that we were right to think the injury was more serious than they let on. Given that anyone still want to doubt that we are probably right that the injury, which seemed to resemble last years, will take on a similar path to that one? Anyone want to doubt that the best case has Strasburg pitch sometime this weekend - after about 3 weeks off - and the worst case has Strasburg missing over a month. Anyone want to doubt that even when he pitches again it's basically a huge question mark how many starts he can go because we never actually saw that tested last year?

The other good news? Max is pitching tonight. He could have pitched yesterday but like we said Friday, that would be trying to sneak in an extra start by moving the rotation up taking advantage of the day off. It's a good idea normally, but with Max a bit hurt, letting the rotation continue as normal and giving him one extra day of rest seems a lot smarter. Assuming all goes well, and you have to think it will given the nothing we've heard about his neck since, the doomsday scenario of having Strasburg AND Max gone for the playoffs is officially back to being just another thing up to the fates, rather than something precariously close to being real.



The Nats are 6.5 games ahead of the Cubs for HFA in the NLCS*. Yes, I'm assuming the Cubs win the Central. I think given the fact that they've stretched out their lead to 5.5 1.5 games already, they tried to get better while the Brewers stood pat, and, well, they are the better team, makes that the safe bet.  The Nats play the Cubs in a three game set. Any sort of Nats win... I won't say it will seal up HFA but it just as well might. 7.5+ games with under two months to go is a tough ask.  Not impossible mind you, but really tough.  5.5 or less though, that can happen. Two games do make a difference.

In this important series the Nats won't have Strasburg as he misses his second start after initially being noted as "may not even miss his next start", Gio (paternity), and Scherzer (giving an extra day). So the team has it's work cut out for it but good luck I say.

If you are worried by Scherzer not pitching this game don't be. It could have gone either way, with him likely to pitch because it keeps the 4 days off schedule, but possibly not pitching because if you go in order per game Monday would be his start with an extra day off.  So why not give him an extra day off and let him pitch at home if that's not even really doing anything crazy?  I would.

Anyway post away as the Nats try to keep the surging Cubs at bay.  They've won their World Series so now they are definitely full of themselves bad guys easy to root against. Go Nats.

*Nats are 12 games behind the Dodgers so forget about that.

Injury Updates -


You know, the Nats weren't shut out for the first 86 games of the year. In the last 20 they've been shutout 4 times. Also in the last 20 they've scored 10 or more four times.As the Post notes, just when you thought it was safe to go back to the bullpen, Enny Romero is probably off to the DL. What we assumed was back issues, something he's dealt with recently in his career, the word is it's forearm "tightness".  Neither is good but forearm tightness could be really bad. Whether you liked Enny or not, he was certainly in the rotation of guys that could be brought out at some point in games that were still in question. So his loss would hurt.Since we're talking about injuries - where does everyone else stand?Strasburg - "elbow impingment" - Waiting to throw an "intense" bullpen session before returning.  He threw a regular bullpen and they liked what they saw, suggesting he could make that next start, but have back-pedalled since then.Scherzer - "stiff neck" - Had been dealing with it before the Marlins game but thought he could get through it. Expected to make next start as of today. Will see a chiropractor. Hey, whatever works for you. Turner - broken wrist - Down in Florida starting recovery, but only at soft toss, some fielding now. No timetable on return though original thinking of late August seems to be still target. Werth - broken toe - Has sloooooowly gotten back to baseball activites. He starting hitting about a week ago, started running on treadmills a day or two ago. Will start doing some simulated game action soon. If that goes well should see a couple minor league games before heading back up to the majors. So could be late next week if nothing derails plan. MAT - oblique strain - began rehab in Potomac. 3 games in and everything seems fine. Dusty suggested that Werth might be back before MAT so they may take it slow with Taylor, but early indications make it seem like sometime in the next two weeks is a certainty.Koda Glover - rotator cuff inflammation - began throwing again in early July but just recently got back to 90 feet.  Still on flat ground.  A return in August seems unlikely, but September hasn't been ruled out. Shawn Kelley - rehabbing in Syracuse. In two appearances has given up a home run in each one. Expect Nats to wait until he gets 2-3 good outings in a row to bring him back. Could be as early as early next week. Joe Ross - Tommy John - had surgery in mid-July. They thought it went well.  Should be back sometime next season but maybe 2019. Adam Eaton - torn ACL - said a couple months ago he was "ahead of schedule" but nothing uttered since. Given even then the suggestion was 2017 was still out the silence suggests there's no reasons to change anything up. 2018. Stephen Drew - abdominal strain - Just placed on the DL recently. Was not performing well so there's no real hurry to get him back. Expectation probably has him moving from 10 day to long-term if Kendrick and Difo keep looking good, and Turner's rehab goes as expected.Ryan Raburn - shoulder - Does it really matter? Could have returned yesterday.  Do you see him? Raburn will be back from the DL whenever the Nats think they need to bring him back from the DL.For those lazy - if all goes well here is the return timetableWITHIN A WEEK Scherzer - presumably next startKelley - whenever they feel he's readyRaburn - if they care to  WITHIN TWO WEEKSWerth - late next weekStrasburg - supposedly he'd make his next start around late next week as well MAT - probably early the week after thatAUGUSTDrew - if they want him he should be ready to goTurner - maaaybe at the tail end of the monthSEPTEMBERGlover - remains a possiblity2018 Eaton - should be back for start of seasonRoss - current TJ rehab cycles suggest we'd see him very late in 2018. [...]

Wednesday quickie


What!? You got two good posts to start the week. Don't be greedy

Max goes out last night. It highlights how precarious the Nats situation is but it also highlights how precarious most series hopes are. Each team has one or two pitchers whose injuries would dramatically tip the odds against them. Each team has a handful of batters who, if out for the playoffs, would have them scrambling to replace that production. Before the trade deadline there's usually only one or two guys out there able to match a real star type player.  After the trade deadline there usually none. At this point it's up to the fates.

You can and you can't blame Rizzo, so both sides should be happy.  You can because, like we've talked about, betting on the Nats having 4 healthy and good rotation arms seemed like a risky bet. Chances seemed likely that Strasburg will be hurt OR Gio would crash OR Roark would never get it going. Given that, bringing in another "playoff caliber" arm would have been nice. This doesn't mean a Darvish or a Gray. It could mean a Lance Lynn or an R.A. Dickey. There's still time for a deal like this - veteran guys with large deals often can pass through waivers - but Rizzo missed one chance to make it happen.

You can't because no one expected Max to go down and you can't make up for losing the 2nd best pitcher in baseball. Whatever Rizzo would have done would not have fully compensated for a Scherzer season-ending injury.  Luckily that didn't happen so this argument is moot but we got a glimpse of what that would be like and it would be BAD.

So while the Nats are cruising to an NL East title and this weekend will be looking to solidify home-field advantage during that series, they are cruising like a sober person driving home at 3AM on January 1st, hoping that nothing out of their control wrecks their drive.

The big bet


Make no mistake. Despite not trading any of their Top prospects the Nats were one of the biggest gamblers at the trade deadline. But instead of betting on a player coming in, or players developing, they bet on an arm. They bet the season on Strasburg's arm. If Strasburg is healthy, the Nats had arguably their best trade deadline ever. After years of limiting themselves to that one piece* to make themselves better, the Nats brought in four pieces. They brought in three quality arms to shore up a bullpen that had blundered and injured itself to worst in the league. They brought in a quality bat to hopefully bolster the bench, but potentially play a starting role if injured players recover slowly. With the players returning from injury over the next few months the Nats could be the weakness free team they looked like they could be at the start of the year. If Strasburg is not healthy, then despite doing all that, this trade deadline was woefully inadequate. Losing their #2 arm, they would need another starter for the playoffs and they didn't get one. What makes it worse is that Darvish, as a rental, was rather affordable and could have been had without losing Robles or Soto. Instead he goes to the best team in the National League, shoring up a potential playoff opponent.Was it a good bet? Well there are actually two bets going on. On the first one, strictly on Stasburg's arm, we have no idea. We aren't talking to Strasburg in confidence. We aren't talking to his doctors. We aren't scouting his bullpen session. We have to assume it is a good bet. We have to assume with all that knowledge, they have a strong confidence (90%? 95%?) that Strasburg is fine**. Because if not, why would they roll with this gamble? If they think that there's like a 35% chance he's done for the year and they didn't make a move, I mean, that's fire-able right?  We don't know if it's a good bet or a bad one, but logic makes us assume it's a good bet.The second bet is a larger one about the staff. The Nats would like to have four starters for the playoffs. Max is a given. Second best pitcher in the majors the past few years. Healthy. You assume he's one. The other three are all question marks though. You have to question, even before the injury, if Strasburg would make it to the playoffs given his limited innings in the past two years. You have to question if Gio, having his best season since 2012, is real in the face of the decline that his recent pitching history has shown. You have to question if Roark, having his worst season as a starter, is going to bounce back before the post-season starts. You have questions with 2-4 (and no real #5). That all three of them will go negatively is next to impossible. But that any one of them will is a good possibility.***The last two are in direct opposition to eachother. If you like going with recent performance then you like Gio but hate Roark. If you like going with history then you like Roark but hate Gio. Either way there isn't a consistent train of thought - other than "good things happen to the Nats!"  - that would have you thinking both those will go the Nats way. Unlike the specific bet on Strasburg's current arm health, we can get a feel about whether this is a good bet or not. Is it smart to bet on Strasburg's general health, Gio's continued success, and Roark resurgance?  My take is no, it is not. I think it is the smarter move to bring someone in who you think could pitch in the playoffs. That's just off the last bet. Couple in the extra odds, whatever they may be (they ain't 0%), from the first bet and that just adds to this feeling. For me, by the time we hit the trade deadline, I felt pretty sure the Nats should have brought in another starting arm. They didn't. So the Nats roll with what they have.I'll admit[...]

Howie doin?


The Nats season is a hard one for those that like drama. The Nats opened the season going 21-9 and taking a 6+ game lead. They went a mediocre 30-27 over the next two months... and gained two games in the standings. The rest of the NL East has made the Nats drive to a division title a race against themselves.But now, after weeks and weeks of fun but kind of meaningless feeling baseball, finally we are at the part of the season that matters. We are to the trade deadline, where the Nats may, or may not, shore up their team for the playoffs. After this will come the positioning of August and September, getting players healthy and potentially fighting off the surging Cubs for home field in the NLDS. The Nats went into the trade deadline with three potential tasks.The undeniable one, the one they HAD to do, was address the bullpen with at least two arms. They did that right away.  The other ones were more questionable. In a perfect world they would add a top half of the rotation starter (to compensate for the 4/5 troubles they've had this year and cover for the potential Strasburg injury), a proven closer (because - you know they don't have one), and a solid corner OF (to cover the injuries of MAT and Werth, and give them a great bench if/when these guys return). Of course in a perfect world these would cost nothing as well.In the real world it was more realistic to hope for MAYBE one or more of a fair back of the rotation guy (to fill-in as necessary at the back of the rotation and save some pen arms), another bullpen arm (because Doolittle is an injury risk), and a decent 4th OF corner OF type.Well the Nats did get the last thing done, bringing in Howie Kendrick for McKenzie Mills. Why did the Nats need Kendrick? Well Jayson Werth last played on June 3rd. He's just now swinging the bat and still has to run and throw. He's a few weeks out at best. MAT last played on July 6th.  He's up to playing catch.  He could be back soon if he feels good swinging. Six weeks is a good guess for an oblique. But even back to health an oblique injury is an easy one to reinjure because you use it for everything and can't really compensate for it. Chris Heisey strained his groin, putting himself out for some extended period and he was also hitting .162 with 1 homer this year.  Ryan Rayburn is out too! In short - a lot of OF options were not looking good.That's why they needed an OF. Why Kendrick? A few reasons. He's a rental and the Nats, for the most part, want a rental for this spot. They like Bryce, Eaton for two of their OF spots and are probably looking to let MAT try and hold off Robles for the 3rd OF spot next year. They aren't looking for an ok OF with another year. The Phillies were willing, for the right prospect price, to eat the remaining 3 million or so of Kendrick's salary. This is something the Nats like more than other teams it seems. Kendrick can play multiple positions. He was a 2nd baseman, and a good one, for a long time but the Dodgers (and the numbers) saw something in 2015 that made them think his time there was at an end. He shifted to the outfield and became a pretty decent outfielder. He's put in time at first and third as well. It's not necessarily what you want to see - Kendrick playing something other than OF - but it's nice to know he can do it in a pinch. This is especially true with Stephen Drew facing an uncertain amount of time off due to injury. Plus he's not a bad runner making him a PR option as well.But the most important reason is Kendrick can still hit. He had a little bit of a down year last year but otherwise has been a dependable bat all his career. At just 34 (birthday about 3 weeks ago) and hitting so far this year, you'd have to feel good that this year is not the year when it all go[...]

Our former guys


Just as a thought exercize I wondered how this below philosophy applied to guys the Nats already got rid of in trades?Jesus Luzardo - age target for league which is great considering he had surgery. Impressive stats but so little to work with (20 IP) and so far down (rookie). All talent basedSheldon Neuse - When Nats traded him he was a solid player in A-ball* not quite a prospect but perhaps rounding into one.So Nats didn't really give up much here in terms of minor leaguers.  Oakland has kept Luzardo in Rookie as part of the recovery year and moved Neuse up to High-A where he is younger and can become a real prospect if he succeeds there (too soon to tell)Jeffrey Rosa (for Enny) -  He was an old rookie league player with mediocre stats.Nats got Enny for nothing.Dane Dunning - First round draft pick who looked good in Low A and seemed ready and willing to be aggressively moved up in 2017 as per usual.  Very early and in low minors but it was what you wanted to see. Lucas Giolito - A true PROSPECT taht begin to hiccup a little in AA in 2015 as a 20 year old but still was way young. Despite not getting production there moved up to AAA in 2016 and performed well. Still a PROSPECT but the spectre of that overall mediocre AA performance was hanging over his head. That was 100+ innings saying he's being pushed beyond his current limits.  Reynaldo Lopez  - Another PROSPECT, and another one with production issues. This time at High A in 2015 at 21. A little older than Giolito but responded better in 2016 to AA and AAA. He had a jump in K-rate in AA that was very promising, but it went right back down in AAA. Still a PROSPECT but with maybe only a year before age would force a downgrade. These were legitimately two PROSPECTS and another guy who easily could be one in 2017. What you could say though is both the PROSPECTS were having production issues. It could be they were just young and going to get over it, but it could also be them hitting their level. Doesn't matter if you are major league good or AA good you should still look really good in low A.  Since then Dunning looked real good in A-ball but has stalled a little in High A, keeping him in the prospect range rather than something more special. Giolito has seen things start really badly and then leveled out to adequate. Age keeps him as a PROSPECT, he's still two years under to low range for AAA, but he's looking far more AJ Cole than Stephen Strasburg. Reynaldo Lopez hasn't quite put it together but he's put up another solid year especially recently (In last 6 games - 1.96 ERA, 0.927 WHIP, Opp OPS .547, three of his four double digit K games this year) You may not be feeling ace but you'd have to say he's still a PROSPECT who should see major league time this year so who knows?Max Schrock  (for Rep) - A guy who you could honestly say made himself into a PROSPECT though you didn't see that in rankings. 21yo in High A with an .826 OPS.By production arguably a better get than either of the guys the Nats gave to Oakland this year. This is where scouting diverges from me. Both those guys were essentially high draft picks, loved for talent and what could be. Schrock was a mid-range draft pick who had to perform to raise any eyebrows. Where as I accept what I see on the field, scouts are more dubious about these types. As a waiver trade part - Schrock didn't play much for Oakland last year. This year they pushed him to AA and he's continued to perform, hitting .316 with an .816 OP in AA. He's still under the radar but he's a 22yo hitting well and fielding well in AA. He's done nothing production wise to say he's not a PROSPECT. Anyone saying something else is clinging to three year old scouting reports saying he sho[...]

Our guys


A couple days ago someone brought up on Twitter the possibility of getting Felipe Rivero. Oddly a Pirates fan jumped in and claimed the Nats didn't have enough to get Rivero. That the asking price vaguely guessed at recently (3 Top 30-60 prospects in a deal with the Dodgers) was too low and that it would take FOUR Top 100 prospects to get Rivero, starting with a Top 15 one. Nevermind that Rivero has plied his trade as a dominant closer for all of 4 months. Nevermind this was way out of line with the vague deals offered for Osuna, a far more established young closer arm with only one fewer year of control. Nevermind that what he was saying was the Felipe Rivero, FELIPE RIVERO, should bring back arguably the greatest haul of prospects in baseball history. He believed it.Of course Dodgers fans hated that original deal too. They felt it was far too much. And this is the dance we go through every year, specifically at the trade deadline. Our guys are too good. Your guys aren't good enough. Of course all any of us have is our opinions and as guys who probably have seen a few games at best of any of these players our opinions aren't going to be as good (we hope) as the scouts and the GMs that do this for a living. Still we can try to inject a little realism into the proceedings.You are going to find other takes on these guys and you should! But here's how I like to think about prospects. They shouldn't be bad. This seems obvious but a lot of people are willing to overlook something poor thinking it will get better. I think prospects can improve but going from terrible at some point in the minors to good in the majors? You better be a 19yo in AAA. Which brings me to the second point. You should be young for your level. What does that mean.  Here's a good chart, courtesy of Nationals Prospects  In my opinion, if you are a prospect you should be doing well at the lowest end of these ages. If you are a PROSPECT you should be doing well below these ages. You can certainly develop into a useful player otherwise but with each flip of the calendar those chances diminish quickly. Also you do need to factor injuries into this. Injuries delay progress that the prospect could be making and would be making. Assuming he gets back to health he should just pop back up, behind the original schedule but still there.A couple more points. I value production at AA and AAA far far far more than I do below that. I am close to dismissive of A and Low A performance unless it is just incredibly impressive. Because of this I probably undersell the youngest prospects. Also I forgive pitchers and catchers a little on the age, but just a year. I hate big strikeout totals for hitters and low strikeout totals for pitchers as those guys can be killed at the major league level. Finally, I don't see defense. Like I have no idea, so I rely on what I hear completely from other places. There really isn't an option for those that aren't going to see dozens of minor league games. So that's how I look at things. The thing to understand is that everyone has their level at which they stop being a productive player.* We can use how they are doing currently to estimate that but you don't really know until they move up and prove it (or don't) on the field. That's particularly true the younger you go, when there still may be some noticeable physical changes, but it holds pretty much up through your mid/late 20s. Players learn and grow, but in the end everyone has a ceiling. This is where I stand. It's not perfect but it seems to work ok. You should certainly trust guys who spend more time on this more** but you're here so on to the Nats best prospects.Victor Robles - He's done everything you want. Dominated GCL to s[...]



Since the All-Star break Strasburg has had issues getting loose, despite not pitching in the game. He's showed a distinct lack of command recently.  Strasburg's velocity though remained good so instead of choosing to do an MRI the Nats are hoping just giving him a chance to reset will be enough. It's the prudent thing to do.

Oh sorry. That's not about 2017. That's what happened 11 months ago.

Some people took issue yesterday when I said (on Twitter) that I thought it was obvious that Strasburg's arm wasn't going to hold up. My argument is that last year we saw A B C D and E happen. Strasburg got more rest in the offseason than usual given that he only pitched once for two innings after August 17th. This year we have seen A and B happen. It is not crazy to believe that C D and E will follow. It is not crazy to believe that we will see A and B happen again next year.  The counter argument appears to be little more than "maybe not!"

Do I think Strasburg's career is over? No. Do I think he has to miss the rest of 2017? No. Do I think he will miss as much time this year (about a month) as last? Probably so! Do I think that he will have to have some sort of procedure or otherwise exist as a 3/4 of a year pitcher in the recent future? Seems likely! 

If this were completely another injury; hip, back, neck, finger, than fine. We don't know. But a forearm injury less than a year after a very very similar set of circumstances and another forearm injury? Please. Once is a chance, twice is a pattern. This is a pattern.

Strasburg may be able to last the year, throw in every start, and be reasonably good. But the smart money can't be on that.  The smart money has to be on missed time. The argument should be about how much, not if.

Side Note : Edwin Jackson stinks, but as we discussed Nats will win division. Who the 5th starter is, assuming it's not someone brought in to pitch in the playoffs, doesn't matter. Now should the Nats bring in someone to pitch in the playoffs? I think so. Said that yesterday. If you are on the "Stras will pitch in playoffs and be effective" side - it can be one more pen arm. If you are on the "Stras will miss playoffs" well it's gotta be a starter, right?

Do the targets change?


Prior to this weekend I said I wanted the Nats to get another arm for the pen and to kick the tires, so to speak, on trades that would help them beyond 2018. With Strasburg facing some sort of injury review today has my mind changed?

Yes, yes it has.

Relying on Strasburg, Roark, and Gio in 2-3-4 was already a tenuous positions. Injury, past performances, and more recent performance all cast doubt on their ability to perform at a high level come October. You can't erase doubt, but you can try your best to decrease it. At this point that means going after a long term pitching solution.  And what does THAT mean? Honestly it means Sonny Gray.

A couple weeks ago I had Gray in there with Gerrit Cole and Dan Straily. Why does it end up being just Gray? Well the Pirates don't seem to be inclined to pack it in for the near future and thus would want to keep an arm like Cole. I don't doubt they could be convinced to part with him but given how he's pitched over the past month they are probably looking for a #1 starter type package. Given how he pitched the beginning of the year, teams including the Nats, are probably looking to give up less. As for Dan Straily, well the Marlins don't have any pitching so to trade Straily would be an utterly confusing move. Cheap and good, if you trade him you might as well trade everyone because you aren't competing until at least 2019. I don't think that's where the Marlins are based on the last couple weeks of talk so Straily comes off the table. I think.

Everyone else able to help the Nats going beyond 2018 will involve taking on some part of a huge salary. I suppose that they could come up with a deal for say a Samardzjia and then agree to a restructuring of it but none of the big contract guys are so appealing that you feel like you are getting a sure thing down the line.

No the answer, if there is to be one, is Sonny Gray. What will it take?

If it's Robles I still balk. As I've explained Robles is a player I'd definitely expect to help the Nats in some manner past 2018. Werth will not be helping past then and Bryce may be gone. Even if he's just an average outfielder you have to hold onto him. That way you can use the cost savings to get someone to help somewhere else. True, you (should) like Gray to be more impactful. Bird in the hand and all. But between a pitcher I feel really good about for 2018-9 and a AA hitter I feel pretty good about through the mid 2020s, I gotta side with the latter.

If it's anything else I probably bite. But being honest, if it's anything else there's a good chance another team could outbid the Nats.

This is where I stand today, not knowing what's up with Strasburg. A "issue of routine" could swing my head back toward the 3rd pen arm being most important. While I still would feel iffy about the playoff rotation, if Stras is healthy you can't ask your team for much more than a Max/Stras 1-2 + competence in a series. And while I would want Nats to look at help going forward, there's always the offseason. Anything worse than that - anything missing time and the above holds.

Monday Quickie - Next problem up


The Nats won yesterday and the bullpen performed quite well, providing multiple innings and only giving up a couple of runs. The day before that they sealed the deal, a little shakily, in a one-run win. The game before that, with no margin for error they eventually blew the game with a run in the ninth.All in all it was a series performance you'd probably take every time from the pen.13IP, 10H, 3ER, 7BB, 16K.  That's an ERA of near 2.00 and an acceptable WHIP of 1.31Of course there is a problem hidden in these stats - the Nats bullpen had to throw 13 innings instead of the ~9 you hope for over a series.  What happened? Well I'm sure you know what we're getting at but I don't want to gloss over the first thing that happened. Max went bad for a couple of innings. Max started his game giving up back to back to back home runs. Over the next 11 batters he'd give up another 4 hits (2 doubles), a walk, a couple of line outs. He turned it around and ended his day striking out the side in the 5th but you can't help but wonder if there's something more here. If it wasn't for Sunday this would be the story going into the week - keeping an eye on Max's next start to make sure this was just one of those blips that happen during the course of a long season.What happened Sunday was Strasburg left the game after 2 innings. He was a little wild, giving up 3 walks int he first two innings and reaching 3 ball counts which each of his last four batters. Still, it's something pitchers usually work through as a test of how to make it work when you don't have your best stuff.  Strasburg though took himself out, so you knew it wasn't just being off. It was confirmed later that he had an problem with his forearm. The positive spin was it was just precautionary, but let's look at just the facts.Stephen Strasburg has only pitched 127 and 147 innings the past two seasons. He is at 121 for 2017 right now. At the end of 2016, Strasburg had to stop pitching because of a forearm issue, missing most of September and the playoffs.  He had mentioned that since the All-Star break he hasn't felt comfortable. (Reminder : he did not pitch in the ASG) He was worried enough about it yesterday to pull himself from a game just 50 pitches in. Put that all together and you have good reason to worry. About what exactly? Well my first thought is a repeat of last year. Some sort of forearm strain that requires at least a month of rest. If that's it then you hope he's ready to go say... Labor Day weekend. You hope he gets right back to pitching how he has been. You hope that jumping right back into the major league schedule doesn't break him after a couple of starts*. If you are a pessimist of course the response is Tommy John. That would be terrible given the limited success of the second surgeries. But there wasn't the usual indications in his velocity or breaking pitches that this was the issue.  If you are an optimist, its just an issue of routine and some time in his next couple of starts his arm feels where it should be and at worst he has a couple more short outings.I'll stick with my guess right now - he'll be out for a month or so. But I will add GET A GOD DAMN MRI. In other news - Enny Romero was also pulled with back issues. That is what got Enny to the DL last year so now it's a persistent problem. Enny was kind of getting some nice praise from fans recently but his season has been one very good month (June) and two and a half bad ones (April, May, July). To me, he's no more reliable today, than he was at the beginning of the year. That doesn't mean he doesn't belong in a major league bullpen. It me[...]

Going for it ^= ALL IN


OK it appears that yesterday's post was read as a plea for the Nats to go all in. I'd like to say I don't see where you were getting that - but I can totally see where you were getting that. This is what happens when you run through one draft and a quick editing check. I was hoping that saying that I didn't think the Nats should trade Robles would clarify that point but apparently not. So to clarifyI wasn't saying :"OMG LOOK AT THE PRECARIOUS SITUATION THE NATS ARE IN FOR 2017! AND THE FUTURE BEYOND 2018 FEELS COMPLETELY UNCERTAIN!!!THEY NEED TO GO ALL IN!!! LAST CHANCE!"I was saying"OMG LOOK AT THE PRECARIOUS SITUATION THE NATS ARE IN!  AND THE FUTURE BEYOND 2018 FEELS COMPLETELY UNCERTAIN!!!It would be advisable if they address at least one of the three potential 2017 issues with a trade prior to the playoffs because while the chance all three come to bear is very unlikely, the chance that one does is not that far-fetched. Better to reduce the odds by attempting to eliminate one. Also, while looking into these issues, I would like it if I saw news that the Nats were addressing them in a way to deal with that uncertain future. I would love it if they could manage to address these issues without mortgaging the future in any significant way."To put it into practical terms :Fedde and Soto for Alex Cobb and Jay Bruce? RUN AWAYFedde and Soto for Sonny Gray and Andrew McCutchen? I'm listening. Doesn't mean I think this is available or that the Nats would do it but I it's the type of thinking that I want to hear the Nats are doing. Longer term thinking (which I think they do) not necessarily tied to payroll (which I think they are hesitant about) Hope that makes my point a little clearer. Another thing I want to note : Somewhere in the comments was a "With Werth gone the Nats have that money (21 Million) to fix some problems"  Well... no.  We can even ignore the Doolittle/Madson costs for now. Murphy is making 5.5 million more next year - 15.5 Million left. Bryce is making 8 million more. 7.5 million left. Eaton is making 2 million more. 5.5 Million left.  Do you want Adam Lind back? Of course you do. He mashes righties. He's due to make 4 million more. It's all gone pretty much! OK so you let Lind walk. Well then, you don't think Rendon (5.8 Million) and Roark (4.3 M) and MAT (580K) won't eat up 5.5 million in arbitration raises? (Spoiler: They will)And like I said that's before you consider the 12 million that Doolittle and Madson will cost next year.  Oh and did I mention the best part? I didn't. Here it is.  That 21 million of Werth money is only coming off the books for luxury tax purposes. Werth actually deferred 10 million of his 2016 salary to 2018 so they are only paying 11 million less. Basically the team you see today? That's the team that will be there in 2018 with some fringy edge changes, unless the team makes a deal or adds more payroll. But it's a good team! A playoff team.And as for 2019 being cloudy, that's just the truth. The fact that after 2012, that 2013-2015 was pretty clear, and 2016 wasn't completely cloudy is the exception. Often you can't go more than a year or two at the best and feel confident. Three years feeling really confident and one sort of four years out? That's crazy! So 2019 being cloudy doesn't mean anything. It's typical. It's not bleak, it's cloudy.  You know what? 2017 was cloudy during 2015. Then Trea Turner kept developing like you'd hope. Then Joe Ross was unexpectedly good to finish year. Then Murphy was signed and magically became an MVP. Then Strasburg signed an extension. Suddenly, by May[...]

Going for it


Last year the Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman. Some people didn't like the trade. It's too much. They didn't need him. They were young and good and would be in the playoffs for years to come so why bother? Fast forward to 11 months later and the Cubs had to streak just to get within three games of the Brewers and are even further out of the Wild Card.Chances are fleeting. Nats fans should know this. In 2012 they were presented with an amazing situation where due to luck and skill all this talent coming from drafts, trades, and free agent signings coalesced to create what seemed like would be a four to five year window of dominance. To best take advantage of that time frame the Nats sat down Strasburg, saving his arm for the inevitable need in the future. But then the Nats managed to make the playoffs only twice in the next 4 years and even when they did Strasburg was never the tipping point. They won the division with ease and Strasburg made no impact in the playoffs. The offense, with Werth and Turner and Eaton all currently out, has collapse potential. It would probably take an injury to one of the big three but that wouldn't be unusual as all have recent injury history. The starting pitching, only going 3 deep now and reliant on a Strasburg who hasn't gone beyond 150 IP in a few years and a oddly competent Gio Gonzalez, is worrisome for a playoff set. The relief pitching, was so bad that bringing in two very good arms only gets you back to the point where you probably need one more arm.  There are still fixes to be made, if not for starters able to win you a division, then for depth that keeps the team able to compete in case of some bad luck.You can do the playoff dance again. Get in see what happens. Technically that's your best bet. Nats are all but in now and no longer have a gaping wound on the mound in the late innings. There are no pressing needs. But we don't know what 2018 brings*. We REALLY don't know what 2019 will brings.**  I'd have loved to see the Nats make another move or two. Seeing the deal as it went down, it's obvious Robertson was there for a song. Did they let it pass by because of the money? Because they feel they are done? I'm not advocating selling Robles. Never have (I don't think). He's too good and at this point they need him to come up next year. But there's no one else I feel that way about in the pen. Make some moves. Get some guys who should be good for this year and next and make a full play at the WS title you want before the chances inevitably fade away. *Really I feel next year is more about the NL East than the Nats who should mostly be similar. It's very likely they don't get the performances from Gio, Zimm, MAT, Lind, that they did in 2017 and Werth could be gone, but a healthy Eaton and Turner likely keeps the offense chugging along as one of the better ones in baseball, and Madson and Doolittle here for another year means the pitching will likely be solid. **This has the look of the year they will come down, although 2017 had that look too before the Max signing, Stras re-signing, and Murphy becoming a superhero. At this point Gio is gone (always season staff reliable even if I don't trust him for big games), Madson gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if they let Doolittle walk with his injury history. Murphy could be gone - though re-signing is possible. One one hand - this marriage seems to be fruitful for both. On the other, he'll be 34 in 2019. And the big one, Bryce could be gone. Also at this point Max/Zimm are 34. You are really hoping Robles is a star, Turner is a star, they[...]

Second half worries


I was going to do this on Friday but it would have interrupted the trade stuff and I wanted to get that out of the way. The Nats have a pretty clear run at the NL East title but that does not mean that they don't have any worries. In fact if you squint hard you can find a worry anywhere.Catcher - These guys stink. Wieters is hitting a measly .245 / .295 / .377  and since the end of April is "hitting" a "robust" .219 / .246 /.313. That's nearing "Inaugural Guzman" territory. Making things worse is Wieters is not good in the field either making him a complete failure. Making things worse than that, Wieters' god-awful last few months are still better than Lobaton who's hitting .140 / .202 / .267First base -  Zimmmerman's montlhly OPS'sApril : 1.345 (AMAZING!!!) May : .905 (ALL-STAR!)June :  .791 (Solid Starter, though maybe not at 1B)July : .631 (RIP)Zimm doesn't field well anymore so if he's not hitting he's not helping and he's not helping right now.Second base - Daniel Murphy got injured last year. It could happen again. This is also the worry for Third base (Rendon) and Right Field (Bryce) Shortstop - Trea Turner is out and Stephen Drew (.273 / .309 / .386 - eh) and Wilmer Difo (.258 / .336 / .325 - bleh) are in. Drew is a roll of the dice and Difo hasn't hit well since A+ ball. But you can't also just wait it out because coming back from a broken wrist is not easy. Turner had been hitting better but he still wasn't generating the same power as last year and the wrist means he's unlikely to do so this year either. So BEST case is he comes back healthy and is a good Singly Joe. Left Field - Where is Jayson Werth? In the midst of capping out the contract with one more miracle year, Werth hurts his toe and is never seen again. As he's aged Weth has been more prone to injury and has found it harder to come back from them so expect that if he comes back he won't be the hitter he was to start the year.Center Field - MAT looked to be finally settling in to at least a passable starter, if not better and then suffered an oblique injury and will be back who knows when with an injury recovery bat. His replacement Goodwin has shown flashes of impressive play but is hitting .227 / .324 / .420  since becoming a starter. Those aren't starter numbers.You may ask - if all these guys suck so much why are the Nats crushing it right now? Well Number one - Reds.  Number two - here are how Rendon, Bryce, and Murphy OPS'd that series.  2.107, 1.524, 1.500.  "Great" you say. "but three guys alone can't do all that damage." You're right. There are other guys hitting really well the past four games. Their names are Adam Lind, Ryan Rayburn, and Chris Heisey. Want to depend on those guys?Starting Pitching - The Nats don't have a 5th starter and Roark had a terrible June that ended with him being strategically punted out of the rotation for a cycle or two.  It is completely reasonable to worry that he won't have any better a second half.  Strasburg has two numbers associated with him you should remember - 24 and 23. These are the number of starts he has made the past two years. Gio has been pitching well but we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop on him.  Max? Well I suppose he could explode on the mound.Relief Pitching - The Nats finally have some arms! Doolittle and Madson should be good. But it's relief pitching so they'll throw like 20 innings and there's no guarantee they have to be good. And neither of them were closing games for the Athletics this year. That's not a high bar to[...]

Mad, Son because they do little? Not anymore


The Nats made a deal to fix the pen.  How excited should you be?  Pretty excited. The Nats are getting two great arms. Both Doolittle and Madson are having great years and have been consistently very good in recent history.2017 Doolittle : 0.656 WHIP, 0.8 BB/9, 13.1 K/92017 Madson : 0.788 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 8.9 K/92015-6 Doolittle : 1.101 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 10.3 K/92015-6 Madson : 1.125 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 7.5 K/9A lefty in Doolittle that is death to left handed batters (no hits to LHB this year) A right hander in Madson who is killer to righties (.177 / .226 / .253). Both though good against all batters. It's hard to see a downside with what the Nats are getting. Of course we can try.  For Madson the worry would primarily be his age. Madson will be 37 soon and has already missed seasons worth of time due to a Tommy John injury. That was a few years ago and Madson has been fine since returning in 2015, but you still have to think of him as an old arm with a TJ surgery in the bank. That's not the best combination. We all saw how Joe Blanton dropped off a cliff dramtically and he didn't have the elbow history.  For Doolittle it's injury that should concern you. He has missed time in each of the past three seasons with the dreaded shoulder problems. So far rest has been enough to get him back on track but eventually it won't be. The other thing that might be an issue with Doolittle is that he wasn't all that good a righties last year. Both are over performing as well.Those are the negatives. For Madson's age it's something to think about but hard to see how that's going to matter now 60% into 2017. I think it he was going off a cliff he would have already.  As for Doolittle, yes, that has to always be on your mind, but right now he's healthy and that's what matters most. His RHB numbers were never terrible so he doesn't have to LOOGY it unless he performs worse than usual. And while these two might, probably should, perform not as well as they have been, that really means they should be good to very good instead of great. There isn't much of a downside here for 2017. So the Nats got two good arms. What did they give up?  Well Blake Trienen for one.  Based on the news from yesterday everyone lives Blake as much as the Nats did. He does have great stuff. High 90s heavy fastball. That's killer. His BABIP and LOB percentages suggest a bit of bad luck.  Last year Blake was one of the better middle relievers in the game.  He's not being paid and under control till 2021 (though he is older at 29).  Treinen could be very good.Then again that's ignoring the elephant in the room, Treinen's history of pitching worse in more important situations. If the A's can't fix that the best you can hope for is one of the better 7th inning men in the game and that's not really worth all that much.Sheldon Neuse is an overall talent who can do it all. Field, hit, run, pop. The question is if this jack of all trades can do any one thing well enough to be impactful. Luzado was a legit prospect who was Tommy Johned into a Nats bargain draft pick. He just came back and has been good but it's real early, he's real young and it's real low level.Neuse reminds me of Max Shrock, the guy the Nats traded the A's for Repcynski last year. They are early in careers and still on the development path they should be. If they keep on that path, they will become useful pieces. If they surprise, and at this stage/age it's still certainly possible, they could be keystone players.  Luzardo[...]

Starting Targets


5.27. 5.01.These are the ERAs for Tanner Roark and Joe Ross respectively.4.57.That was the ERA for Gio Gonzalez last year when we fretted over whether it was a good idea to start him in the playoffs.The point should be obvious. If we were worried about Gio last year, we need to worry about Ross and Roark this time.  Ross is an obvious problem, with his on and off injuries and inconsistency over the past 2 years. But squint and maybe you can see an acceptable season for Roark so far. The problem is that good season was based on an unlucky start.  For June and July Roark has earned his terrible season. You can bet on Roark turning it around (and also with Gio continuing to pitch well) or the Nats can go out and get an answer. This may be the year to get an answer.The foundation guys Michael Fullmer & Marcus Stroman - It's not that often that top of the rotation guys of these ages (24 & 26 respectively) are available, but the Tigers understand their rebuilding process may take a long time and the Blue Jays would be in the same position if they sell. Stroman's stats aren't as impressive as Fullmer's but Stroman has been doing it longer which reduces the chances he's just a flash in the pan (like the don't strike any one out Fullmer). Stroman has already begun the arbitration process, so he both costs more (3.4M vs 550K for Fullmer), and is under control for less time (2021 vs 2023) But Stroman would still be a great get. Fullmer just has the potential to be a phenomenal one. Either one can be looked at as a solid #2 type for the remaining time under control.Of course given all that, the deals have to be amazing and it is likely what was offered for Quintana wasn't enough for Fullmer. The Nats would have a hard time offering more unless Robles and Soto both go. The other option would be to eat some contracts. I'm sure the Fullmer deal would be more acceptable if a Verlander or Upton or ZNN were attached. Again, not the Nats way. It's not necessarily the fact the Nats couldn't make a deal like this but getting one of these guys makes fixing the pen harder as you have lopped off the top of your minor leagues and have to be concerned about cutting deeper. Long term rotation fixesGerrit Cole & Sonny Gray & Dan Straily - you have three distinct pitchers here. Gray is an ace type who suffered an injury in 2016 that brought him all the way back down. However, he is apparently recovering and should be good the remainder of this year. Cole is a guy with the best pedigree but has regressed over the past two years and in 2017 is nothing more than an average arm. He's a year younger than Gray but both are under control for the next two seasons and cost under 4 million currently. Dan Straily was a guy with potential who has bounced around several places trying to get healthy and figure things out. It appears that this year he has done it. He's a year older than Gray, but under control for one more season and super cheap 550K.Straily seems the ideal target for the Nats, but being on the Marlins complicates things. They aren't rebuilding per se and they need pitching so why would they trade this piece? Selling high and getting a great return would probably do it, but I think he's worth more to the Marlins than anyone else. Cole isn't a set piece and the Pirates are not exactly sure where they are, both for this year and the next couple. That means Gray will get the focus as he's doing the best this year and will have the highest price.  While[...]

Starting Offensive Targets


There's a lot of starting pitchers out there! As a break to myself we'll go over the offensive players the Nats could go after first. The same rules apply to today as yesterday.  The big difference between relief pitchers and offensive players is that young, good, contract controlled offensive players that have already played in the majors are rarely offered up in trade outside of rentals. That's doubly true mid-season.  That means the guys available are usually either old, expensive, or both and also still cost a fair amount in prospects. It doesn't mesh well with the Nats trading philosophy.  I believe the best mid-season Rizzo offensive deal was for Kurt Suzuki.Why is this? Because offensive players are generally more impactful and more reliable. That makes them the players you build around. Relief pitchers are not that. Having a relief problem is bad, but it is solvable through mid-season trade. That can't always be said about offensive problems*CatchersAlex Avila & Kurt Suzuki - Hey! Suzuki! Both these guys are FAs next year and making next to nothing baseball-wise in 2017 (2M and 1.2M) Alex Avila is having his best year in a long while and is vastly intriguing because he may be a product of the "launch angle era" He's a player who has always hit the ball hard, and because of it has always had a good BABIP. But being a slow catcher anything on the ground that could be reached was sure to be an out. This year he's hitting far fewer GBs (and striking out less). Of course like any good ballplayer Avila believes that he's just hitting fewer ground balls than he ever has in his career because he's healthy.  Sound familiar? If it's real you got yourself a great C bat. Defensively he's good behind the plate but has gone down as a framer in a way that you probably buy it being real. Suzuki is also having a minor resurgence but his is less revelatory. He's hitting more flyballs and a few more left the park than usual. Since he doesn't seem to be hitting the ball harder that's probably more luck than a real change. Which means Suzuki isn't a slightly above average bat but a slightly below one which is unsurprisingly what he's been his whole career.The Nats are committed to Wieters for another season. They have to be, that's the contract. Because of that I don't think they will make a move at catcher.  That's fine as long as Wieters stays healthy. Avila is interesting but a gamble. Suzuki probably isn't much different than Wieters. But Lobaton is a garbage back-up.  Back-ups don't play that much so in theory it doesn't matter but if Wieters goes down the Nats are in big trouble.OutfieldJD Martinez & Andrew McCutchen & Justin Upton & Melky Cabrera & Jay Bruce & Curtis Granderson & Nick Markakis  - All these guys are expensive. Let's get that out of the way. We're talking contracts over 10 million which makes it unlikely that the Nats will pick these guys up. Another strike against them is that there isn't a slick fielding CF here,* which is what the Nats need right now if they are going to bother to bring in an outfielder.Why list these guys then? Well because conceivably the Nats could use another OF next year as Werth departs. So grabbing a guy now for then... well it's a classic Rizzo think ahead move. They may like MAT enough not to do this and a Bryce, MAT, Eaton OF would be very solid defensively. Then again a very good and reliable bat might be too much t[...]

Relief Pitchers - Targets


There is really no need to go into why the Nats need relief pitching but just in case you are curious :  They do have the worst ERA in the majors at 5.20 a good distance from the second worst (DET) at 5.04. Opponents are hitting them the hardest with an opposing OPS of .818, worst in the majors. They've blown 14 saves, which is a lot*, though not worst. This isn't a fluke. This isn't just timing or perception. The bullpen is terrible. It HAS to be addressed.But who? Rizzo prefers guys who can be long term answers with cost control. The Lerners really prefer cost control. But both showed with the trade for Melancon and Papelbon, that they are willing to go for what they think might be the right short term answer, if it's available. What do we see this year?Long-term answers, cost controlledRoberto Osuna & Raisel Iglesias - both these guys are currently closers with solid stats both this year and in 2015/16. Both are controlled through 2020. Both are younger, Iglesias at 27 and Osuna a baby at 22. Osuna is CHEAP only costing 600K right now, while Iglesias, a foreign signing, is a reasonable 5 million or so a year for the next three years. These are ideal targets. That means of course that they will be expensive to get. It's hard to see Robles not being involved here, although if they like Soto a lot (and some do) it could start with him. "Start" is the key word here, though. Any deal centered around something less is you being a homer. It's hard to see Rizzo give up on a bat prospect for an arm so I don't see either of these things happening, but it's at least out there.Long-term answer, expensiveMark Melancon - this was the guy the Nats wanted to keep but couldn't as he fled to SF for a more traditional deal. He's hurt. He's not pitching all that well. He's not young (32). And he's expensive (43 mill still owed after this year) But he is a "proven closer" and the Nats have a psychological need as much as a talent one. Still I re-read that last sentence and think the Nats are only in on this if San Fran is giving him away.Long-term middle relief help, cost controlledBrad Hand & Arodys Vizcaino & Ryan Butcher - Here we start getting into more likely targets. The first two guys are a couple years into the majors (27 and 26 respectively), with good stats this year, inexpensive (around 1.5M) and controlled through 2019.  Brad Hand is the hotness because everyone knows the Padres will deal, however you do have to consider he was no good as recently as 2015.  Vizcaino is more reliable but is dealing with a finger issue at the moment. Plus it's unlikely the Braves would trade the Nats a long term piece. Ryan Butcher is an intriguing fellow, with big strikeout potential, a nothing contract (600K), and the longest control of anyone - through 2021. He's also 30, wild, and has limited experience. He's the gamble of the three. Hand will probably get bid up to be more expensive than he's worth so I see the Nats bowing out of that race. I see Butcher as a maybe but he's a 3rd arm dealt for.Potential long-term middle relief, reasonableSean Doolittle - Doolittle is pretty much his own case. He is good, and he has been good. But he's not like these guys as he's under a real contract that will pay him real money. It's only 2.7 mill this year, but it jumps up to 4.4 next and is in the 6 million range in 2019 and 2020. The good news for the Nats is 2019 is a team option, and 2020 might be (mutual if[...]

Trade Targets


Here we are. The All-Star break. The Nats haven't made it intact but in the past week they have proved that at the very least they are still no worse than the next best teams in the NL East and that is more than enough. Even if you hate the current MASH unit Nats and think they are equal to the rest of the dregs of the division, that still means the rest of the dregs have to play 10 games better than the Nats over the course of 75 games or so.That may not sound like a lot but it is. Take a look at the standings. Only in eight instances has a team put 10 games between them and another team so far. And that's considering all the teams, with all their differences in talent, in more games. Nope the Nats are safe (until Scherzer and Bryce go base jumping) and we can turn our heads to the future now and that means fixing the Nats current issues.That means trades for relievers, obviously. But it could also mean a trade for a starter. Ross has gone down with some ailment and hadn't been reliable before that. Roark is hanging on this season. Do you trust Gio in a big spot in the playoffs? It could also mean a trade for a catcher. Wieters/Lobaton could be the worst catching duo in the majors this year.  It could mean a 3rd OF.  MAT is now out and with no time table for return. Werth is still out and is 1000 years old in baseball years. Goodwin is hanging on by his fingernails right now as his stats keep on slipping, slipping, slipping into the 5th outfielder future. It could even mean a new SS as Trea Turner should be back but if the right deal is there, how do you turn it down?So the Nats, who say a month ago might have been only focused on relievers are now open for business across the board.  What do the standings say about who's selling.No: BOS, NYY, CLE, MIN, KCR, HOU, WSN, MIL, LAD, ARIProb Not : TEX, CHC, COL, NYM, TBR ? : STL, TOR, SEA Prob Yes : LAA, ATL, PITYes : CHW, OAK, DET, SFG, SDP, CIN, PHI, MIA Doesn't matter, won't trade with Nats : BAL (Mets probably fit here too)This is just my take based on what I've read and believe. Vaguely this reads as : teams currently in strong contention for a division title won't sell. Teams in WC contention, or teams that feel built for now even if year has gotten away from them, probably won't sell. Teams that aren't built for this year, but are on the fringes of playoff contentions, probably will sell. Teams that are in contention for nothing, will sell. Basically it's a combination of where you are, where you are trending, and what you felt going into the year. Also this list isn't set, things could change with a dramatic run or fall in the week or two after the ASB. Anyway those the teams. Who are the players? We'll start going over that in detail tomorrow but a non-exhaustive list includes...RP: Melancon (SFG), Doolittle (OAK) Wilson (DET), Neshek (PHI), Ramos (MIA), Robertson (CHW), Hand (SDP),  Madson (OAK), Blevins (NYM), Johnson (ATL), Watson (PIT), Reed (NYM), Vizcaino (ATL), Smith (TOR), Nicasio (PIT) Cuthcer (SDP), SP: Stroman (TOR), Cobb (TBR), Cole (PIT), Quitana (CHW),Shields (CHW), Cueto (SFG), Samardzjia (SFG), Verlander (DET), Gray (OAK), Lynn (STL), Estrada (TOR), Hellickson (PHI), Volquez (MIA), Straily (MIA), Feldman (CIN), Holland (CHW), Dickey (ATL)C: Avila (DET), Suzuki (ATL)OF: Martinez (DET), McCutchen (PIT), Upton (DET), Cabrera (CHW), Bruce (NYM), Granderson (NYM), Markakis (ATL) SS: Cozart [...]