Nationals Arm Race

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

My favorite “questions” from #AskMatt


#AskMatt was a huge success .. for humorists.  Photo Nats official 2014 via

#AskMatt was a huge success .. for humorists. Photo Nats official 2014 via

So, the geniuses at MASN apparently have never seen just how badly these open Twitter hashtag Question and Answer sessions can go.  I wrote about this once before, when NCAA head Mark Emmert was subjected to an #AskEmmert session and was roundly ridiculed (I also link to a fantastic Peter King session that went just as badly).  Googling something like “worst twitter q&a” sessions also leads to some fun “#AskMe” type sessions that went awry.

Instead, MASN threw caution to the wind and decided to have an “#AskMatt” session last week.  Here’s the Twitter link with the hashtag so you could judge for yourself how it went.

It went, to quote, about as well as you could expect.  WP’s Scott Allen also commented on the unasked questions.

Here’s some of my favorite “questions” from the session.  Most of these made me laugh out loud in context.  No word as to whether or not Matt actually answered any of them.  :-)

  • “Is Jayson Werth’s inability to drive batters in related to his inability to drive due to a suspended license?”
  • “What is uglier – Jayson Werth’s beard or your bullpen management?”
  • “If Jordan Zimmermann is throwing a one hitter thru 8 2/3 again, when should we expect to see Aaron Barrett?”
  • “If the Nats make the playoffs, who’s your 18th inning guy? “
  • “What really happened in Benghazi?” (asked by Luigi de Guzman, writer of the Natstradamous blog, part of a theme of asking pointed political questions)
  • “Why didn’t Storen or Papelbon pitch once in the biggest series of the year?”  (asked by the twitter account @FireMattWilliams; i guess it was just a matter of time before that twitter account popped up).
  • “I have found the way to eliminate poverty worldwide, should I share it or just leave Storen & Papelbon in the bullpen?” (Asked by former Nats Farm Authority maven Brian Oliver)
  • “If my cat throws up, should I leave him in for another 20 pitches or bring Aaron Barrett in immediately to clean it up?”
  • “Would you rather: eat steamed cauliflower for rest of your life or let closer pitch in tie game when leverage index is highest?”
  • “Who’s ahead in bullpen pecking order, Doug Fister or Tyler Moore?”
  • “Matt, what’s your favorite hippo diarrhea video?” (and then providing a sample)
  • “Do you like movies about gladiators?” (asked by NatsEnquirer’s ck)

Fantastic.  The internet is the best source of unintentional comedy sometimes.


Written by Todd Boss

August 11th, 2015 at 10:01 am

24 Responses to 'My favorite “questions” from #AskMatt'

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  1. I think the Fister vs. T-Mo question still stands after last night. Forget Storen and Papelbon; collectively, T-Mo and CRob have an ERA of 0.00! But which one of them should close . . .

    I don’t know who the makeover guru is in the Nats’ organization, whoever rebuilt Stras and Treinen, but Fister needs as visit, as does Barrett, who is recuperating from his retroactive ailment.


    11 Aug 15 at 10:13 am

  2. Concerned about Barrett. Hate seeing hard-throwing middle relievers suddenly with “elbow pain.” Usually a precursor for something worse.

    Todd Boss

    11 Aug 15 at 10:43 am

  3. Btw, pitch fx data for Moore and Robinson is pretty funny.

    here’s Robinson:

    Here’s Moore:

    Robinson: 6 fastballs, 3 curves, sat 81-82. His “curve” had less than 2 inches of vertical break; not much there :-) Moore was throwing a bit harder: 84-86 and he only threw one off-speed pitch, which was labeled a “cutter” but may have been a changeup.

    Todd Boss

    11 Aug 15 at 10:49 am

  4. Is Barrett legitimately hurt? He was initially optioned. I’m betting he will be fine and dandy on Sept. 1.

    If the Nats do make the postseason, Sept. will present a very interesting competition for roster postseason spots in the bullpen, all the more so because you would think they would go back to five bench bats for the playoffs (which would probably be the hitters active now plus Span). Ross would probably get dropped for his “shutdown,” but if Treinen keeps going the way he is, he’ll be there. That would leave an odd man out among Barrett, Roark, or Fister. I find it amazing to write that, as they’ve all been such significant contributors, particularly last season.


    11 Aug 15 at 12:09 pm

  5. Barrett: read some little blip that said the sequence of events was like this: Barrett does poorly, team says they’re sending him down, he goes “oh well my arm’s been bugging me” so team Dr looks at him and they send him to D/L instead of burning the option.

    Todd Boss

    11 Aug 15 at 1:13 pm

  6. No doubt Matt Williams has been terrible this year, but I doubt the a reincarnated Casey Stengel in his prime could do much with this underachieving club.

    In light of last night my question would have been: “When Harper is out of the Nats’ lineup on a night when DC United is playing, which team is likely to score more points?”

    Karl Kolchack

    12 Aug 15 at 8:15 am

  7. Karl, well, there’s you’re answer, even with Harper: the Nats and DC United each scored first and did nothing offensively thereafter, losing 3-1.

    My half-full glass now has several cracks and is leaking badly. It’s one thing to be feeble against Greinke and Kershaw, but facing 800-year-old Ryan Vogelsong??? Good grief. Werth in particular is a black hole right now. He HAS to sit in favor of Robinson. Werth isn’t the only problem, but he’s the only one for which there is a viable alternative.

    There are still 48 games left, including six against the Mets. But the body language, and effort level, and whatever you want to call it, of this team over the last couple of weeks has not been encouraging. If the Nats get beyond five back, it’s getting into the danger zone.


    14 Aug 15 at 6:52 am

  8. Hello boys

    Just got back from the family vacation, so I have been spared a bit of the daily angst of this slide. Not pretty though (he says, in the understatements of understatements:)).

    Playoffs don’t look good, but it certainly isn’t over. Momentum is all wrong on both sides, but that can change quickly too. I tend to think about this kind of stuff in terms of percentages, and I would currently give it a 10-15% chance? I know that is lower than the proxy projections that get published, and I am sure that they are more accurate, but my trouble with believing it more than that, is that other than a brief spring stretch, the Nats just haven’t looked good to me all year. So to believe that all of a sudden they play .650 ball? Could happen, just not high probability to me. But imagine how exciting it will be if they do?

    I have already starting thinking about what this season means for the offseason, and think we are, and should be, in for a substantial turnover. We know the obvious walk year guys, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see catcher upgraded too, and maybe they take a run at moving Werth, as unlikely as that is. I don’t think an OF of Harper (superstar) plus MAT (still unproven) and Werth is a strong one. One of the non Harper spots could be used for a stronger bat, and MAT provides such good D and is cheap, that Werth is the obvious one to move, even if they eat salary.

    But I think this season, assuming it holds that they miss the playoffs, will lead to an offseason of criticism of Rizzo. I don’t know what the exact specifics will be, I expect it to be along the lines of ‘the Nats had a golden opportunity these last four years, and they blew it’. Everything will get brought back into play, the Stras shutdown, the Werth signing, all of it.

    It will be a bad narrative, and I won’t agree with it. Of course, any decision maker can get criticized in hindsight and certainly Rizzo made some mistakes, but as any fan from the early days through ‘Natinals’ to now can see, Rizzo has done an exceptional job putting this franchise into a competitive, watchable team, and I am happy to see him leading the effort through the transition.


    14 Aug 15 at 9:55 am

  9. Wally – I don’t fault Rizzo. Most of the decisions he’s made have made sense at the time, and how could he anticipate that so many veteran players would underperform do dramatically this year?

    To me, the 600 pound guerrilla as far as potential offseason trades is Ryan Zimmerman. It has been two full seasons since he has had a mostly healthy and effective year as a hitter. They’d likely have to eat a lot of his $60 million in remaining salary to unload him. Werth would be even harder to move, and they probably would have to eat almost all of his remaining $42 million.

    I guess we’ll find out just how desperate old man Lerner is to win a WS title before he dies, because having both Werth and Zimmerman in the lineup on Opening Day 2016 would almost certainly not be a recipe for success next year.

    Karl Kolchack

    14 Aug 15 at 10:47 am

  10. Just too many strike out bats in this lineup. Loss of Span has really hurt. If Harper is not dominating like he did before the break, the offense is nothing. Harper jumpy and less patient again. Seems very concerned about his stats and hair! Rendon has looked very average at the plate in his limited return and has even shown some temper and frustration after some AB’s. We need the real Anthony back for now and the future. I wish he’d be less relaxed looking at the plate. Kid needs to show some menace and aggression at the plate like Escobar & Zimmerman. I know Anthony’s style has worked for him, but you wouldn’t want to have a whole team of guys who look so sleepy at the dish like him and Moore. Rendon is my favorite player on the team, but man he looks even more laid back than past years.

    I certainly don’t think Danny Espinosa is a short term or long term answer as a starter as some have mentioned. Without all his bunt base hits, he’d be batting in the 220’s or 230’s too with alot of K’s. He’s propped his average up with the bunts but that profile doesn’t help much when you need a solid hitter profile to score someone.

    This team is just so boring to watch on most days. One positive is that Zimmerman has brought a new approach or stance and doesn’t look like the lost cause I feared. In looking to lineup construction in the future, I would not tolerate high K rates from hitters not named Harper or Zimmerman. We need more of the pests like Span. I’m looking forward to the end of the Desmond, Ramos, Espi, Werth, Moore era of Nats baseball. Ready for Turner, Difo, and new catcher & big bat outfielder or two to pump some life into this lineup. We need that speed even if they go through growing pains. Will be interesting to see if Rizzo has the nerve to marginalize Werth with his salary.

    Marty C

    14 Aug 15 at 10:50 am

  11. Karl – I was referring more to what I think the national media outlets are going to write this offseason, not us commenters.

    But I have a little bit of what Marty is describing too, which is that I am ready for some new blood, even if the overall talent level has to step back a bit until they prove themselves. The guy that I will be most sorry to see go will probably be an unpopular choice – Desi. I have just always appreciated him for his effort and that he shows up every day, and never makes excuses for his mistakes. I know he is a pretty flawed player, but whatever, you like who you like, I guess.


    14 Aug 15 at 12:05 pm

  12. I’m not ready to start the postmortems yet. They’ll be plenty of cold winter months for that, perhaps unfortunately even some still-warm fall ones. I will add, though, that it was painfully clear after the playoff loss last year that they needed another big bat. I pined for Donaldson, only to be told by everyone that he’d never be traded.

    Yes, right now it’s all about momentum, for both the Nats and the Mets. Forty-eight games is still plenty of time for things to turn around, though. It has to happen one game at a time. Time for Scherzer to be the stopper, and for all the underachieving bats to start proving us wrong. It can only be done one game at a time, one at-bat at a time.

    Time for JUp2DC? I’ve never been a big fan, but he and Heyward would be about the only FA bats that would make much sense. And yes, I think they’ll have to pay for a fourth OF rather than find someone to take Werth, even prepaid.


    14 Aug 15 at 1:55 pm


    Posnanski crucified the Papelbon acquisition, for many of the same reasons I mentioned: intangibles.

    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 15 at 2:33 pm

  14. FWIW, the Nats were 7-13 and eight (8) games back at the end of April. A month later they were a game and a half up. They made up 9.5 games in 27 games. tough to do.

    But, the team that went 21-6 in May was worse than the team on the field now. So they have a winning streak in them; they just have to find it.

    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 15 at 2:42 pm

  15. There are several situations where Rizzo seems to have gone with talent over character, with Papelbon, Escobar, and Soriano all immediately springing to mind. I’ve never been convinced that Werth was that great of a teammate, either, although he does get enthused about his fellow Nats on the field and in the dugout. But I’ve never heard stories about him like what I’ve heard of Scherzer taking Ross out for jogs and other things like that. I think they thought that Werth would be a mentor for Harper, but I’ve never heard anything along those lines.

    Of course when Rizzo starts talking about character, it’s usually to justify overpaying guys like McLouth or Scott Hairston.


    Time for the Pirates to start getting after the Mets while the Nats flip the script in SF.


    14 Aug 15 at 4:19 pm

  16. Todd–regarding that article, I thought at the time that they were making a big mistake trading Clippard instead of Storen last offseason. If they didn’t have faith in Storen, which they clearly did not, they should have either elevated Clippard to the closer’s role in his walk season or gone in a different direction altogether.

    Karl Kolchack

    14 Aug 15 at 4:21 pm

  17. KW – great call on Werth. Lots of commenters on Nats’ blogs keep blathering on about the supposed value of Werth’s “leadership.” But I’m with you in that I’ve never seen any evidence of it.

    I also don’t think RZ is much of a leader. That comment he made earlier this year about how the Nats were going to be “fine” after the impending free agency losses had to grate on Z-nn and Desmond in particular given how vital they were to the team’s success in 2012 and 2014.

    Karl Kolchack

    14 Aug 15 at 4:25 pm

  18. Todd – I love Joe Pos, but I don’t think that article is good. They got papelbon because they wanted another good arm for the pen, and he represented the best value they saw on the market (talent-cost). The fact that it made Storen move is unfortunate for Storen, but I cannot believe it has caused his recent meltdown any more than the it ‘fueled’ his three or four perfect outings right afterwards. I just think this is a case of a good writer starting to spin a narrative that I was referring to in my first post, how the Nats/Rizzo blew the last few years. I think that we will have to brace ourselves for a bunch of them unless they turn things around.

    As for the general talent v. character argument, I have to be honest, I come down 99% of the time on getting the talent. I don’t like papelbon, at least what I see of him in the media, but if he produces, I’ll be ok with him. Of course, the guy has to actually pitch first, but that is a whole other can of worms. The Nats are failing this year because their talent wasn’t as good as we all thought, or it is fading, not a lack of character. At least, that’s my view.

    KW – JUp, Heyward, Cespedes would be the obvious FAs. I probably like Hayward best. I doubt we go after any of them though. maybe Jay Bruce in a trade? Would you take Ryan Braun’s contract? But likely they’ll spend $5m for a McLouth type, hopefully someone who actually performs this time.

    I didn’t mean to come off earlier that there is no chance. Of course there is, and the Mets, of all teams given their history, are the ones that you would want with the lead, ready to fold. it is just that I haven’t seen much reason this year to think that the Nats are actually going to do it. Hope I am wrong.


    14 Aug 15 at 5:18 pm

  19. It’s really hard to tell whether the Papelbon trade was any good because he’s hardly gotten to pitch! I agree with Wally that he really was the best arm available for a reasonable price. The rub came much more with how it was sold to the team. That’s Matt W’s job, and Rizzo’s to a somewhat lesser extent, and the “clubhouse leaders,” whoever they may be.

    I understood the Clippard trade at the time, and the thinking that they could fill the 8th inning for less. And heck, where would this team be without Escobar having one of the best offensive seasons of his career? That certainly was a good deal. It just left a hole that guys didn’t step forward to fill the way they should have. Janssen started the season hurt and has only recently started to find his groove. Stammen was lost for the year. Barrett blew hot and cold, as did Treinen, who suddenly looks like the real deal after his tuneup in Syracuse.

    We’ll see. For now, let’s win a few games.


    14 Aug 15 at 9:00 pm

  20. Better news on the minor league pitching front. Giolito at AA tonight goes 7 IP 1 hit and 11 K’s!

    Couple nights ago a Single A Lopez goes 7IP 2 hits and 11 K’s!

    Marty C

    14 Aug 15 at 9:13 pm

  21. The Mets lose, the Nats’ offense wakes up enough to score five, Scherzer’s on the mound . . . and it’s not even close. Ugh. Just add it to the growing list of missed opportunities.

    Great news about Giolito. He had been knocked around in his first couple of AA starts. I would think his MLB ETA will be June 2016 if there is a faltering starter, like what Ross has done this year. I wonder if they will do with Giolito as they’ve done in previous years, keep him in extended spring training until May, which would conserve him enough innings-wise so he could run through the end of the MLB season.

    Wally, here’s how they sell going after JUpton, Heyward, or Cespedes. They say publicly that they’re not sure Taylor is ready to be an everyday player. Since all three of those guys can play CF, the ruse would work. The unstated expectation, of course, would be that the signee would spend more time playing for Werth than he would for Taylor.

    To me, among those three, the pick is Upton. Heyward is a year younger, but his power his disappeared. Cespedes is a couple of years older but has never been very good at taking a walk/getting on base. Plus Upton is from the area and . . . wait for it . . . was a D-Back draftee in the Rizzo/Williams era.

    Who is this McLouth person that people keep mentioning? Does he even exist? Did he enter the witness protection program, hoping that no one would try to track him down and get the money back? What a disaster that has been. The concept was right, though, as the Nats have needed a “regular” fourth OF for much of the past two seasons as all three starters have missed significant time.

    The “budget” target in the OF would be someone like Colby Rasmus, although he already makes $8M per, so he wouldn’t be that cheap. I was pumping a Bruce trade at the deadline, but the Reds apparently had insane asking prices for their players, and one would suspect that won’t change.

    Braun is owed $90M minimum, a juiced contract based on juiced numbers. Werth is owed $42M, RZim $62M. Swap one of the bad contracts for another? That’s the only way it might work, but I’m not sure that taking on more debt for another aging player would help.


    15 Aug 15 at 6:55 am

  22. Posnanski’s article was directly in line with my concerns with the deal. The downstream personnel impacts. There WERE absolutely “setup guys” available on the market who would have made more sense to acquire and not displace Storen. From this list: i count several guys who would have come here and not displaced Storen. Clippard, Soria, Johnson, Broxton, Jepson and Dyson. And this list doesn’t include relievers moved as part of larger deals, who presumably would have been individually available (LaTroy Hawkins a good example as a throw-in to the Tulowitzki deal).

    If the reason to acquire papelbon was to “fortify” the 7th/8th innings … why not try to acquire a 7th/8th inning guy? That’s my point. and his.

    What have we seen since the acquisition? Storen blowing up (predictable). Papelbon barely pitching (since the team is in a huge funk). Williams the incompetent leaving them both in the bullpen for an entire critical series. Why frigging bother acquiring him?

    Todd Boss

    15 Aug 15 at 9:05 am

  23. I could see Upton b/c of the Arizona connection (like Bowden before him, Rizzo has definitely shown a proclivity towards players he knew intimately in his previous job).

    Todd Boss

    15 Aug 15 at 12:01 pm

  24. I am not saying there weren’t other relievers available, of course they were. All I am really saying is, Clippard and Soria look like they cost more than Papelbon in prospect terms, and the other guys probably aren’t as good as him. And in Storen’s first 5 appearances after the trade, he pitched 5 innings, faced 1 batter over the minimum, 1 walk, no hits and 6 Ks. Then imploded over the last three. Was it trade related? Who knows, but it isn’t clear from the record. That is why I thought Pos’s article was lazy.

    It is all kind of a sh@t storm right now, and it may be that the Papelbon trade will turn out to be terrible. But I think that will turn on how he pitches once Matty actually uses him better, and how Pivetta turns out.


    15 Aug 15 at 8:22 pm

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