Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Remember this Weekend


Scherzer can't pitch a no-hitter every time; at some point this team needs to start hitting.  Photo via

Scherzer can’t pitch a no-hitter every time; at some point this team needs to start hitting. Photo via

If the playoffs started today, here’s what the match-ups would look like (and frankly the odds of this setup changing seem slim; maybe SF catches Chicago for the 2nd WC but otherwise this seems like it will be the line-up):

  • Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh for the wild card
  • St. Louis hosting the WC winner
  • Washington traveling to Los Angeles.

And in said short series, with the Nats traveling to Los Angeles, they’d likely face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke again in games 1 and 2.

Here’s what the LA 1-2 punch just did to our hapless lineup, on the road no less where Kershaw has a significantly worse stats:

There’s not a pundit in the game who doesn’t think the Nats aren’t going to win the NL East.  That they’re in first place while their #1, #2, #4 and #5 hitters sit on the D/L is pretty amazing (or, perhaps more to the point, a pretty bad indictment of our division in 2015).  But the toll is being seen; between outings against Kershaw, Greinke and (just before the all-star break) Johnny Cueto, we now see the effect of such a weak offense.  MLB-wide Aces will absolutely dominate the Nats.  To the point where we could have Cy  Young himself throwing and not have a chance.  If there’s just one or two legitimate hitters in your lineup, you can pitch around them and attack guys who otherwise would be in AAA or on the bench.  As we just saw.

The question is this: can the Nats offense turn this around?  We have now seen this team make the playoffs twice, each time with the best record in the league, and then each time flail out of the playoffs while barely hitting.  In 2012 they hit .232/.290/.393 and in 2014 they hit .164/.222/.258.

Yes we plan on getting everybody back.  Most of our D/L guys are on rehab assignments as we speak actually.  Can they get their expected form back and make this team respectable on offense?  Can Jayson Werth regain his stroke despite recovering from a broken wrist?  Can Denard Span regain his batting stroke despite a chronic back issue?  I’m less worried about Zimmerman and Rendon; they just need time and luck to stay on the field despite leg/foot issues, and both those guys profile as the kind of middle-of-the-order hitter that would give the Nats lineup some potency back (not to mention some protection for Bryce Harper).

Will it be enough?  Are you worried about looming playoff match-ups?



10 Responses to 'Remember this Weekend'

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  1. I said after the 2014 playoff loss that the Nats needed another bat or two. I conceded that I didn’t know where they would play. Escobar has actually been a surprisingly good addition thus far, but they still need someone with more power. It isn’t “a healthy Ryan Zimmerman,” or “a healthy Jayson Werth.” They won’t know the status of those guys by the trade deadline. I have real doubts that an aging Werth will be able to generate much power right away after a wrist injury.

    There’s no way that all four hitters come back, regain peak form, and stay healthy. That’s a pipe dream. Plus even if they do, discounting RZim, who hardly played, it would still be basically the same lineup that flailed against SF’s over-the-hill gang.

    Besides the four MIA guys there’s also the Desmond saga. Ramos hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, either. So that leaves the pleasant surprise of Escobar and that fella with the hair who Mattingly may walk at least 10 times in the playoffs. Why pitch to him? (Unless you’ve got the same ump as Sunday . . .)

    If it’s me, I’m shopping for a power bat – Jay Bruce, Carlos Gomez, someone like that. I don’t really care about Chapman. If we don’t have guys who can get us a lead before the 9th, what use would he be?


    20 Jul 15 at 12:53 pm

  2. I’m ok with Werth; he was a damn good lead-off guy when he came back from his previous wrist injury.

    I do NOT want Chapman; I’d rather have a setup guy who knows his role rather than pull the rug out from Storen yet again.

    Todd Boss

    20 Jul 15 at 2:36 pm

  3. Oh coincidentally, the next three starters that the Nats face: Harvey, deGrom and Snydergaard.

    Could be 3 more shutout losses for this impotent offense.

    Todd Boss

    20 Jul 15 at 4:00 pm

  4. Hmmmm…. well, to be honest, it has been a really odd season for me as a fan. The guys that I was expecting to count on haven’t come through: Zim, Rendon, Werth, Stras, Fister, Ramos, even JZimm have not performed, underperformed or shown signs of tarnish. I cannot logically find reason to think the injured guys are just going to miraculously heal up and start playing better than they did before they got hurt. I am open to it – :), just not betting that it is the most likely case. It’s kind of literally just been Harper and Scherzer to root for so far.

    The flip side is that some of the guys that are being counted on to be part of the next wave have been better than expected: Ross, Taylor, some prospects like Turner and Giolito, even Escobar and Espy’s resurgence.

    So while I find myself pretty pessimistic about their chances to go far this year (maybe I am subconsciously managing my expectations downward), its somewhat offset by a slightly better outlook looking forward.

    But to tell the truth, I’d love it if it were reversed, and I were super pumped now and worry about tomorrow when it happens.


    20 Jul 15 at 7:59 pm

  5. Is it fair to start the Matt Harvey shutdown conversation? Maybe he was just having an off night, but another view would be that he’s beginning to look like Stras did the last few starts before he (properly) got shut down.

    I’m a bit stumped about what the Nats should do as the trade deadline approaches. I do think that they need a Clippard type bridge guy, although Janssen does seem to be finding his mojo. I’m not a fan of pushing for Zobrist. If/when Rendon is back, the INF will be crowded, and Zobrist is more of a gap-power type guy now rather than HR bopper, which Werth will probably be when he comes back. The Nats will have a lot of confidence in Clint Robinson off the bench, whenever he’s able to go back to the bench. He seems to be blossoming in the way that we’ve hoped for four years that Tyler Moore would.

    So the Nats might well stand pat except perhaps for another bullpen arm. If they do, though, I share Wally’s pessimism that they will be able to make a deep run. We’ll see.

    Speaking of bullpen arms, Valverde has been pitching well at Syracuse, and I’m surprised they didn’t give him a look with the Treinen demotion.


    21 Jul 15 at 9:01 am

  6. Watched the first bit of the game last night. Harvey was not sharp. Great stuff as always, zero command. Only 3 Ks in 7 innings? Four walks? Of course, that beign said, how many of the “hits” he gave up were really well struck? In the 2nd inning, the nats scored two runs on a mis-handled bunt single that should have been an error, then a well-earned walk by Harper, then a grounder to left scoring one run, then a WP leading to a little-league 2nd run. Not exactly a huge indictment of Harvey there. The runs scored in the 3rd moreso, 2 runs on a well hit double.

    Its worth noting that harvey retired the last 12 hitters he faced after the above debacle. So there’s something to be said for that. Even moreso since he was facing the top of the Nats order for the fourth time in the 7th and mowed them down 1-2-3.

    So…. i dunno. Was it an off-night or just some unlucky bounces early on?

    Todd Boss

    21 Jul 15 at 9:31 am

  7. Trade deadline: definitely an 8th inning guy to help out. Agree with standing pat otherwise; if you buy a guy, it’ll cost prospects we’ll need next year and they’ll just create a log jam once Span, Zimmerman, Rendon and Werth all return. And they’re all doing rehab right now. So we’re talking about a short term problem.

    Todd Boss

    21 Jul 15 at 9:33 am

  8. I can’t put much stock in the Dodgers series over the weekend. If the regulars are in the lineup I don’t see quite the same results. The two series I would have earmarked as a litmus test are 8/10-8/12 in LA and 8/31-9/2 in St Louis. By that time the team should have either gotten healthy OR made a move to help augment the offense. Both road series against playoff teams should provide a better look at what the team is capable.

    I too hope Rizzo goes out and grabs an 8th inning guy. Janssen has looked sharp lately but it would be great to have him and Thornton for the 7th and a more dominant strike out oriented arm for the 8th. That would also allow Rivero and Barrett to handle the 6th if need be or mix and match throughout the game with power arms.


    21 Jul 15 at 9:57 am

  9. OK, I’m all in now on a bullpen arm, or two, or three, after Tuesday night. Geez, that was painful, as was Treinen’s performance on Sunday. Does Ross become one of the bullpen arms, or do they keep him stretched out at Syracuse? He’s certainly become the most effective of the spot starters.

    I should note that it wasn’t all the pitching last night; the defense put the pitching in a pickle in both the 7th and the 9th.

    On positive notes, Ross is the real deal. He’s got to be one of the leading contenders for a rotation spot next year. Also, Rivero was poised and confident in a couple of tight situations.


    22 Jul 15 at 5:03 am

  10. Ross was only on about 80 pitches leading off the 7th, so it wasn’t a “bad” idea to leave him in. He was set to face 5-6-7, gives up a hit and an error, then our best middle reliever by stats (Barrett) gives up a 2-run single to a pinch hitter. Kind of tough luck.

    Agree though; Ross is the real deal. He’s basically setting himself up to replace Zimmermann one for one in the rotation in 2016.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jul 15 at 8:48 am

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