Nationals Arm Race

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

Its make or break time; even more so than a week ago.


A week ago, at the beginning of this west coast trip, I thought the team might end up going 2-5 between LA and SF.  They faced two good teams on the road against good pitching.

I was wrong.  They went 1-6.  What a Disaster.  Scherzer and Gonzalez both laid massive eggs in games where the Nats held a rare and clear SP advantage (over Vogelsong and Cain respectively) and the team squandered games where the offense uncharacteristically scored more than 1 run (5 and 6 respectively in consecutive losses).  It was no surprise they got shut out by Kershaw, Greinke and Bumgarner … but they had no excuse to lose to these other stiffs.

Amazingly, we’re mid-August and this team has gone 10 and 20 since the all-star break.  10 and 20.  Yes they’ve faced some tough pitching, but a playoff team should at least go .500 against a good team throwing good arms.  This team has not; it has completely folded.

Dave Cameron at summed up things a lot better than I could.  He has a table of 2014 and 2015 WAR figures that’s pretty amazing.  He also has the playoff odds for both Washington and New York and what they’ve done over the past few weeks and that’s pretty amazing too.

The Nats are 58-59.  Amazingly despite a 6 game losing streak the Mets also fell on their faces this weekend and the Nats didn’t lose much ground in the race.  But they’re 4.5 back with 6 weeks to go and need to step it up.

They now have 6 straight games against two bad teams (Colorado and Milwaukee).   Can they salvage their season and actually win some of these games?

What is wrong with this team?  Is it just everyone unluckily under performing all at once?  Is it the Manager?  Is it the frigging Papelbon trade? I don’ t mean to find some “arbitrary endpoints” but consider:

  • Nats Record before Papelbon trade: 52-46
  • Nats Record since: 6-13
  • Storen’s ERA before the trade: 1.73 in 36 1/3 innings
  • Storen’s ERA since: 10.38 in 8 2/3rds innings.
  • Papelbon’s entire contribution since arriving: 5 IP in 5 games, 2 saves.

Could just be a coincidence.  Demoting a popular, home grown player who was having a great season with a blow-hard attitude guy couldn’t possibly be a reason for a team that has shown itself to be mentally fragile in the past to shut it down, right?


46 Responses to 'Its make or break time; even more so than a week ago.'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Its make or break time; even more so than a week ago.'.

  1. Todd Boss

    17 Aug 15 at 3:07 pm

  2. Todd Boss

    17 Aug 15 at 3:08 pm

  3. Todd Boss

    17 Aug 15 at 3:11 pm

  4. Such a surprising season. Personally, I don’t think there was an event that led to anything. They were overrated to begin the season, the Mets were underrated. Then the Nats have been injured and underperformed even what their expectations should have been, and the Mets got better through some trades.

    But it’s one thing to have th season underperform your expectations, but the way they are doing it, sheesh. They are just so hard to watch; I think I would rather have had their injured guys just stay hurt, and watch the subs divebomb than watch what Werth, Ramos, Rendon have been doing. That, to me, is the bigger travesty.


    17 Aug 15 at 6:23 pm

  5. The Papelbon trade might be a factor, but I don’t think it is a major one. Except for a two month period last season in which they spent much of the time beating up on the rest of the godawful NL East, the Nats have really been pretty mediocre since the beginning of 2013. They didn’t have nearly the margin of error we all thought they did.

    In retrospect, the talent pool was shallow–while they’d had some good drafts, they have YET to see any of their Dominican or other foreign signees have an impact at the MLB level (thank you Smiley G). Rizzo’s emphasis on drafting and developing power arms has left the franchise impossibly lean on good offensive prospects. The only two minor leaguers with double digit home runs strike out at a rate that make Desmond look like a model of plate discipline. That’s not an accident.

    Ultimately, I think too much complacency set in after their 2012 run. The 2014 playoffs, in particular, were a red flashing warning light that Rizzo completely ignored. The 2015 team was ripe for failure, but everything that could go wrong had to go wrong for them the fail this badly.

    Karl Kolchak

    17 Aug 15 at 6:33 pm

  6. The Papelbon trade is more likely a gigantic red herring. Which won’t stop uninformed speculation and narrative construction.

    John C.

    17 Aug 15 at 11:09 pm

  7. Davey Johnson likely will go into the Hall of Fame for his managerial career. He’s seen as the ultimate “players’ manager.” But when this team, with pretty much the same core it has now, started going bad in 2013, he had no answers.

    It’s a quirky squad. Many of the best players are quiet by nature, some even borderline sullen. Its very best player is still viewed as the kid brother, and probably always will be by the current crew. Do some of them even resent his success and fame?

    I’m conflicted on Karl’s statement about the system’s failure to produce hitters. I agree about 90 percent, but I should point out that the system did have two homegrown bats MLB-ready for 2015: Taylor and Souza (although both with alarmingly high K rates). Not anticipating that Werth, Span, and McLouth would miss the majority of the season, they traded Souza (albeit for an excellent return). But yes, in a year when the Nats needed a broader level of hitting depth, guys like Goodwin, Skole, and Martinson were not ready, and seem like they may never be. And the system as a whole has very, very little power that projects to be MLB quality until you get down five levels deep to Robles and maybe Wiseman in Auburn.

    One absolute canard in all of the discussions is that “the Mets are better than everyone expected.” The Mets are on pace to win 86 games. If our team can’t win more than 86 games, it doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs. No team does.

    To reach 87 wins, the Nats have to play .644 baseball the rest of the season. That’s quite doable against the NL LEast. Just shut up and win some games!


    18 Aug 15 at 6:42 am

  8. The only reason I keep harping on the Papelbon trade is because I sense it may be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of Williams & Rizzo losing the clubhouse. No way to “prove” it, but yes the “narrative” really fits well right now. We’ve heard more than a few rumblings from national writers talking about discontent there. Those stories aren’t just made up, not when they come from the best and most respected writers out there (Rosenthal, Heyman, etc).

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 9:04 am

  9. I’ve never trusted Heyman’s reporting – he’s wrong an awful lot of the time. I don’t have a sense one way or the other about Rosenthal.

    John C.

    18 Aug 15 at 9:42 am

  10. I don’t trust Heyman when it comes to Boras-related stuff. But he’s awfully connected.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 9:48 am

  11. It begs the question. What writer, if he wrote that the players were discontented in the clubhouse and were sick of Williams’ schtick, *would* you trust?

    Here’s the Heyman link:

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 10:19 am

  12. C’mon Todd… these players have every reason to perform whether they like the others on the clubhouse or not. It’s called money. Nobody is tanking it out there. They are either not that good or compromised by injury.

    We just have a flawed roster to start with. Ramos was really unproven in large sample sizes because he was hurt so much. He has the worst batting stance in the league so I’m not surprised he’s failing. Desmond we all know was flawed, trading home runs for consistency. We are who we always were except the pitching this year is not stellar enough to hide all our weaknesses, and our injury prone guys keep getting injured. Span was obviously very important because he did not strike out much on a strike out crazy roster. Werth is a shell of himself held together by duct tape. Rendon has been below replacement level since he came back and looks completely unaggressive even for him at the plate. Harper has regressed to a level while still very good, not the amazing level that can win the division by himself like pre- break.

    The biggest problem with the Nats has always been the management and coaching philosophy of entitlement. They have to treat their babies with kid gloves. And it shows up in three different ways. First they let they’re entitled stars play every day through horrendous below replacement level slumps. Sitting them every other game and in bad match ups until they show signs of getting hot would help both those players and the team. Can’t they see when a player is in one of those long bad streaks every player goes through?

    Second is they rush every guy off DL stints too early and right into the most important spots in the lineup where they usually fail and kill rallies for the next month.

    Next is the pitching entitlement. Gio wins 21 games but who starts next opening day? Strasburg. Zimmerman has a dominant next year but who starts next opening day? Strasburg. Zimmerman throws a no hitter on last day of season, but on perfect rest who starts the 1st playoff game? Strasburg.

    Managing should be easier. Short leash when you’re cold. Play them when they’re hot. Bench player has an amazing game, he earns a start the next day too. Try to fix obvious flaws like K rate etc…

    Marty C

    18 Aug 15 at 10:57 am

  13. I felt like the Papelbon trade was a mistake mainly because the team didn’t need a closer. However, I agree with John that the narrative that it somehow blew up Storen and the Nats’ season is mostly a red herring.

    For me, the real narrative here is this team’s clear tendency to choke under pressure. Since Gio’s and Storen’s 2012 playoff meltdowns against a tough, poised opponent, this team seems to fold whenever pressure is applied. Consider the entire 2013 hangover season, which seemed doomed from the moment Davey uttered “World Series or bust”. Result: Bust. Then consider the repeat playoff performance of 2014 against another tough, poised opponent. Again, under pressure, the Nats lost the first two games despite having a clear advantage in starting pitching. And after scoring a run in the 3rd inning of Game 2, the Nats couldn’t score a single run over the next 15 innings of play! At home! As far as the choking narrative goes this season, the Nats went a mediocre 6-7 for the first two weeks out of the All-Star break. Then, immediately prior to their 3-game series against the Nats at CitiField in late July, the Mets made a series of trades that announced to everyone that they were going all-in to challenge the Nationals for the division title. And the Nats immediately responded to this pressure by getting swept in NY (where they’d recently dominated the Mets) and going 4-13 overall. Look at team BA and ERA since the start of that Mets series at the end of July.

    What’s scariest about this sort of narrative is that it becomes self-fulfilling. Teams perceived as chokers historically tighten up even more when under pressure to win, which generally results in more choking. The Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s are a classic example. And that’s the identity that this team is slowly building for itself. I sincerely want to be wrong about this, so please rip into this post as much as possible.


    18 Aug 15 at 11:33 am

  14. Managing should be easier. Short leash when you’re cold. Play them when they’re hot. Bench player has an amazing game, he earns a start the next day too. Try to fix obvious flaws like K rate etc…

    Except of course that no one has been able to figure out when hot/cold streaks end. The manager should make decisions based on matchups and who is better (long term) because over time the better player is more likely to produce better results. Chasing hot/cold streaks is like trying to time the stock market. It sounds seductively easy (“buy low! sell high!”) but is not a recipe for success – and chasing the market/streak is more likely to be counterproductive in the long run.

    John C.

    18 Aug 15 at 11:36 am

  15. FWIW I’m not dismissing Rosenthal out of hand, I’m just dissing Heyman. Certainly if there were more reporting on this done by the beat guys who are in day-to-day contact with the players I’d have to take that seriously.

    John C.

    18 Aug 15 at 11:37 am

  16. John, regarding timing the streaks, I’d rather lose a day or 2 of a hot streak than spend 20 or 40 days straight on a cold streak. It’s easy to tell when these guys are going through a stretch where they can’t even see the ball. And they can feel and see when they are getting their timing back in BP etc. Let them skip some games until they start to get it back. Their personal stats will be better and team will be better if you marginalize a guy when he is obviously struggling.

    Do you think these players make some magical adjustment that gets them out of a cold streak? If they could they would. Most often only time cures it.

    That being said, what makes it hard to sit these guys is the money. Hard to sit a guys making $15 or $20 million even if it is best for the player and the team.

    I’ve told Todd for a while now that I think the next frontier in analytics is hot-cold streak management. But much easier to do though when you have a flexible roster that’s not making $10 or $20 million a pop all over the field.

    Marty C

    18 Aug 15 at 12:03 pm

  17. Marty; have you ever been at a job where you had a boss you didn’t like? Even if you were being paid well? I don’t think pro athletes just look at their massive paychecks and say, “Oh well i’m getting millions of dollars, I should just shut up and be happy.” I think there are workplace dynamics in a clubhouse just like we deal with in our own jobs. And there’s plenty of documentation out there to back it up in the form of “behind the scenes” reporting.

    I’m not sure i’d call the roster “flawed” … i’d call it “fragile.” McLouth and Johnson were meant to be the two primary bench bats and they’ve both disappeared, leaving the team to depend on two guys (Moore and Uggla) who should have been out of the organization on 4/1. That cascaded as more people got hurt. Maybe it was inevitable to expect Zimmerman and Werth injuries. Maybe even Rendon as well given his history; but that’s 10 WAR between just those guys out the door. That’s hard to handle.

    Is that the manager’s fault? no of course not. But I do hold the manager accountable for, when he does have the opportunity to impact games, screwing it up. As williams has done frequently.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 1:40 pm

  18. day-in/day-out Beat guys certainly are in a better position to “know” what’s going on … but if they start revealing those kinds of secrets, they lose their sources. Its why when you read our beat reporters by and large its milqtoast analysis.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 1:43 pm

  19. Hot streak/cold streak management; you have to have a manager with the *balls* to sit a veteran. And I don’t think we have that manager. I think we have a manager who caters to the high paid vets since he was once one of them.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 1:44 pm

  20. Todd–I totally understand the point you are making about being in a bad work environment (been there, done that), but the odd part is that a lot of these guys are costing themselves in future earnings.

    Storen is a free agent after next year, and though not being able to collect more of the second most meaningless stat in baseball will cost him a bit, developing a reputation for being a guy who chokes on his team at the most critical times is going to cost him far more. For me it isn’t a matter of “suck it up, buttercup,” but one of being baffled that he isn’t more motivated to prove his critics wrong and show he is deserving of a big payday in free agency.

    Karl Kolchak

    18 Aug 15 at 2:40 pm

  21. Half the team is costing themselves money. Fister’s chances of a multi-year deal? Shot. Desmond has cost himself $50M on the open market. Span? who’s going to give him a 3 year contract after the injury plagued season he’s had? Zimmermann has been good but not Ace level; if he throws like he did last year he’s looking at near Grienke money. Storen likely demands a trade before he goes to arbitration with this team, but can you imagine that argument? The team can’t possibly with a straight face argue against him b/c he doesn’t have saves, and if you’re judging Storen on the back of like 5 career post-season innings well that’s just patently unfair. Rendon goes to arbitration for the first time next year and he’s got a negative WAR season; that’s going to cost him cascading money for 3 years running. McLouth and Reed Johnson may have ended their careers thanks to their DL trips. Moore isn’t going to be tendered; he’s arb-eligible. Do you offer Stammen arbitration or cut him? How does Ramos argue that he’s worth a raise after this season? Its a sh*t show across the board for this team.

    What’s the common denominator? Maaaaaat Wiiiillliams.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 4:35 pm

  22. Todd.. I think at most Papelbon move may have affected Storen. I even doubt that. But he has zero to do with Werth not being able to get on base, Ramos swinging at sliders in the other batters box all year, Fister totally losing it, Desmond playing through a historically bad first half etc…

    You could argue on your theory that getting Papelbon has turned around Desmond’s season here since the break for the better.

    Storen was due for a tough stretch. They all have them and Storen doesn’t have the stuff to go untouched all season. Bad timing for him.

    Marty C

    18 Aug 15 at 4:39 pm

  23. At most? the reports i’ve read about the state of the clubhouse say that Storen was well liked, earned his spot, certainly didn’t earn his “demotion,” and the players on the team disagreed with the move. So if you’re “aligned” with Storen and you disagree with the move, would you be motivated?

    Impossible to prove one way or the other. What’s Werth’s excuse? Zimmerman’s? Rendon? That fangraphs article is pretty telling; the core of last year’s successful team is like 25 WAR off their 2014 pace. that’s hard to do.

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 15 at 4:52 pm

  24. I don’t like Matt Williams but I can’t blame him for this mess. Werth had shoulder surgery, Span had multiple surgeries.. Ryan is probably only effective on cortisone shots after DL stints now. Stammen lost early, Clippard gone.

    Desmond had been regressing and striking out like crazy before Matt got here. Storen was Jekyll and Hyde before Matt got here. Moore hasn’t looked good since 2012.

    The only one I can’t figure out is Rendon. He should not be looking this bad. But he has had extended slumps the last 2 years too. He would have hit over .300 last year had he not played every day though his month-plus long slump early last season. He’s a mess now though. Only hit a few balls near a wall all year.

    Marty C

    18 Aug 15 at 4:54 pm

  25. Nothing like a trip to Colorado to wake up your offense. Last night is what I expect out of this team; beat up on poor pitching and a weak team.

    Cannot blame Williams for the injuries, no of course not. But there has to be a reason that this team struggled to stay afloat while its “stars” got healthy … and then hit the skids.

    Todd Boss

    19 Aug 15 at 8:43 am

  26. BTW, I love Werth in leadoff. When he lead off after his hand injury in 2012 he had a .309/.388/.450 slash line at the top of the order. He has always had great OBP (career .366) and has always taken a ton of pitches (he’s at 4.22 pitches/plate appearance this year, which would have him 3rd in the NL this year if he qualified). And as he ages he’s less of a power threat and makes even more sense to bat there, especially with the loss of our natural leadoff hitter (Span) for the season.

    Best move Williams has made for a while; will he stick with it?

    Todd Boss

    19 Aug 15 at 9:32 am

  27. Dombrowski in, Cherington out. I think this is a good move for the Sox. I am not a Cherington fan. He has built a good system (I think – lots of his prospects also flame out), but really had problems assessing major league talent, I think. And I also think he was better at ‘selling’ than ‘buying’. DD is a real GM and can handle the big markets. Good call.

    Turner being played at 2B. Interesting. Espy at SS next year? Makes sense, since he almost certainly is the better defender, and isn’t that the point? Does Escobar get traded this offseason? Rendon and Espy on the left side would be a high quality duo and if Turner can handle 2b, that’s a nice IF.


    19 Aug 15 at 10:53 am

  28. Todd, you like this move (Werth to leadoff) better than Ross for Fister in the rotation?

    I don’t think it lasts past Span’s return, though. But what if you only drop Werth to 2nd in the lineup then? I guess we’ll cross that bridge when/if the Nats get to it.

    John C.

    19 Aug 15 at 11:17 am

  29. Cherington: always thought the Boston run in 2013 was somewhat of a fluke (as much as a 97 win season can be a fluke): the year before and after they were awful, and they’re bad this year too. Really no reason for a team with their resources to be bad.

    Turner at 2b; probably nothing; a good SS can play 2B interchangeably. Maybe to get Burriss a few SS innings too? I dunno. I wouldn’t read much into it other than perhaps getting him some positional flexibility. I mean, look what Escobar’s flexibility has allowed the Nats to do this year. Its been awesome. Espinosa was *always* a better defender than Desmond; better arm, better range. Love seeing him at SS. How do you move Escobar after the season he’s had for us? The entire offense has been driven by him and Harper. Turner is incredibly more valuable at Short from an offensive perspective … but that being said, if he and Espinosa are interchangeable between the positions, why not have that option. After Rendon’s 2015, can you count on him being ready to answer the bell? Maybe that’s why you can’t move Escobar.

    Todd Boss

    19 Aug 15 at 11:24 am

  30. Hmm. Ross/Fister or Werth to Leadoff. From a managerial perspective, I think moving Werth to leadoff actually showed more brains than the demotion of Fister. You’re right though; as soon as Span is back, Werth is elsewhere. #2? Sure i guess; he was #3 all of last year but now that’s Harper. With his willingness to put Escobar at cleanup, maybe yeah Werth goes to #2.

    Was last night’s lineup the smartest one he’s filled out all year? Werth-Espinosa-Harper-Escbar-Desmond-Zim-Taylor-Ramos?

    When Span returns, do we go to something like this: Span-Werth-Harper-Escobar-Desmond-Zimmerman-Espinosa-Ramos?

    Where would a healthy/productive Rendon fit it? He’s the best #2 hitter on the team …. if he can hit. I’d love to see Werth-Rendon-harper-Escobar-Desmond-Zim-Ramos-Pitcher-Span … why not? Span as the “2nd leadoff” guy to try to get people on base for Werth/Rendon makes sense and is proven to be (albeit very slightly) runs-positive over the long haul.

    Todd Boss

    19 Aug 15 at 11:35 am

  31. FWIW (not much) I read Turner at 2b yesterday as purely positional flexibility – with the implication that Turner has now definitely supplanted Burriss as the “in case of emergency” middle infield call up. It also raises (IMHO) the likelihood that Turner does, in fact, get a September callup this season.

    John C.

    19 Aug 15 at 1:26 pm

  32. I’d be kind of pissed if Turner gets called up right now. Unless we lost both Desmond and Espinosa and suddenly had nobody who could actually play shortstop. If we suffer an injury and someone needs to come up as middle infield depth/bench player, it better not be Turner at this point. I don’t want to see his service clock started until mid April of next year unless there’s a really, really good reason.

    Todd Boss

    19 Aug 15 at 2:14 pm

  33. I hope that Turner at 2b isn’t related to the fact that Rendon is out of the lineup yesterday & today. As noted, I think a couple of injuries is the thing that could get him called up, but Rendon plus any one of Escobar, Desi or Espi could be enough to pull the trigger. (obviously sitting Rendon is more likely just that he was struggling and the other three all looked good last night)


    19 Aug 15 at 6:01 pm

  34. A commenter on Luke’s site, I’ve forgotten who, maybe one of the regulars here as well, stated a few weeks ago that a Sept. call-up doesn’t count toward service time. I honestly don’t know, or know where to check. If it doesn’t, then bringing up Turner is a no-brainer (unless the team thinks it would play mind games with Desmond). If it does, it becomes a close call. Do you sacrifice a year on the back end to have a talented, green reserve available down the stretch?

    Suddenly, -3.5 doesn’t seem so daunting, particularly since the Mets have lost four of five.


    20 Aug 15 at 5:27 am

  35. I am pretty sure it does count, it is just games played that goes into total service time. Of course, they could compensate by calling him up in early May instead of late April to balance it out.

    But with the current roster and fighting for a playoff spotr, if all he’ll do is pinch run, I think it would be a waste. They tried that with Kobernus a few years ago, and they discovered that they didn’t really have a roster that they wanted to pinch run for (other than Ramos). If he would actually play some, it might be worth it but as is, I can’t see him forcing Desi, Espy, Esco or Rendon to the bench (there is already a squeeze). So I would say it isn’t worth it.


    20 Aug 15 at 6:48 am

  36. Plus Difo, who will surely be called up, could fill the pinch-runner role.

    Speaking of a PR for Ramos, it would be great if they could call up a third catcher in Sept., but who? Butler is off the 40-man and has been terrible. Does Severino get a look?


    20 Aug 15 at 8:29 am

  37. I have been trying to avoid too many anti-Williams comments, because I recognize both that most managerial decisions have two sides to them, and the impact of his decisions pale compared to player injuries and underperformance. But Williams just really sucks at managing the bullpen. I am not talking about his most criticized decisions, like taking out JZ last year for Storen. To me, there are equally plausible reasons to go with either in that spot and the result is a coin toss. No, I am just getting completely frustrated with his refusal to just pitch his best pitchers. Last night is another example. Tie game in the 7th, and he tries to ‘get by’ with 4th or 5th best options. We wind up losing the game. I can’t say it cost us the game, since we didn’t score a run to put us ahead, but it sure as sh@t doesn’t help, and it doesn’t give us the best chance to win, which is his job.

    We are 4 games back with 40 to play, and he needs to show some urgency. Every game matters. It was my major beef with his playoff management last year. If anything, he ought to risk overusing Papelbon, Storen, and Jannsen (in that order). Instead he saves these guys for specified situations (late game leads). Williams strike me as a smart guy. But since he almost never explains his decisions beyond ‘it’s a long season’ and ‘that is his role’, I can only conclude that he just sucks at it. Those answers are fine for actual reasons in April and May, but not now in this situation.

    I can also only conclude that he has either lost, or never really had, a deep confidence in Storen, given his usage of him. It’s one thing to save Papelbon for ‘save’ situations, but holding back Storen for leads in the 8th? At some point, does he just never think we can come back and win a game late? Is there no point to holding it close? And for those thinking Papelbon wouldn’t pitch other than in the 9th with a lead, (a) I don‘t buy it, and (b) I would sure as heck test it, and if he tried that crap, I’d make sure that he knew that I would broadcast his refusal throughout the league. I really think that he was making a contract play, and would never object to coming in to an important situation earlier in the game.


    21 Aug 15 at 10:20 am


    This is such a clear management failure, that it’s not even close. When so many guys underperform at the same time, it’s hard to blame all of the underperformers (last year I blamed Espinosa for his problems because everyone else was fine). Further, the 2 best hitters on the team, Harp and Escobar, are the two guys whose personalities clash with MW the most.


    Andrew R

    21 Aug 15 at 11:31 am

  39. I had high hopes that Williams, new to managing, would bring some innovative ideas and break out of the box. Alas, the few he had turned out to be some bizarre defensive positioning during the first couple of months of last season, keeping the immobile Werth in RF, and batting Harper 6th. After the criticism of the defensive positioning, though, he got very, very conservative and has remained that way. He manages too much for future contingencies (like “what if we have the lead in the 9th and need our ‘closer’?” or “of course we can’t PH the backup catcher even though we have a short bench”) and doesn’t use his best players at the crucial times.

    Sigh. Would Williams be on the chopping block if the Nats don’t win the East? I think the vast majority of Nats fans would say “yes.” In his chat a couple of weeks ago, though, Boz was pretty insistent that Williams is Rizzo’s hand-picked guy, he has the excuse of all the injuries, yadda yadda. We’ll see. Uncle Ted isn’t getting any younger.


    21 Aug 15 at 1:02 pm

  40. Turner’s up, even before September. Wow. I don’t blame them for playing all their cards, though. I just don’t know where/how much he will play.


    21 Aug 15 at 8:24 pm

  41. And the juggernaut rolls on. I think I need to take a break from watching them for a while. It actually isn’t the losing as much as the bad baseball.

    Can’t put that one on Williams at least.


    22 Aug 15 at 10:02 am

  42. Wally, I felt the same way after the giant turds the Nats laid on Wed. and Fri. Then they went out last night (Sat.) and played the way that makes us wonder why they’re not five up instead of five back.

    Very promising to see signs of life from the bats of Werth, Rendon, and Ramos. Span had a big game for Harrisburg and appears almost ready, but where will he play, considering what Taylor is doing? Span is so much more consistent at the plate than Taylor, though, so we’ll see. At least Span has been allowed time to get his timing in the minors and not rushed back like Werth, Zim, and Rendon, who still doesn’t look completely healthy.


    23 Aug 15 at 7:28 am

  43. How healthy do you want Zim to look? He’s been crushing the ball since he got back. Last night he hit a ball 400′ – albeit to the deepest part of the park, so all he got for his troubles was an F8. And he did it again today, driving a ball off the CF wall for a double at a critical moment in the game (yes, even in the first inning).

    Nice to see Werth and Rendon coming around, but Zim has been hitting since he got back (.253 ISO, 136 wRC+ before today’s 1-2 with two walks).

    John C.

    23 Aug 15 at 6:14 pm

  44. My health reference was to Rendon, who didn’t look full speed at all going first to third on Sat.

    Sat. and Sun. were encouraging. That’s what the Nats should be doing to inferior teams: crushing them. There’s still reason for hope, but the margin for error is thin.


    24 Aug 15 at 7:45 am

  45. I should clarify that Rendon looks fine at the plate. He just looks tentative on the basepaths and in the field (as FP noted a time or two over the weekend).

    But yes, the return of the bats of Rendon, Zim, and Werth over the weekend is very encouraging. If they hit like that, the Nats will have a chance, particularly with Duda now out for the Mets.

    And all of a sudden, there is Mets shutdown talk everywhere, as I predicted a few weeks ago.


    24 Aug 15 at 12:12 pm

  46. Now THAT was the team I signed up to follow. Stras mows down 15 in a row. Zim delivers the dagger and almost shows excitement. The hole is deep, and the Mets are playing well (although due for a market correction in their run totals), but the Tuesday night performance gives me more hope than I’ve had for a while.

    Oh, and they’ve shifted Scherzer’s next start so he’ll be lined up for the Mets, along with Stras and JZim. Now let’s pick up a couple of games in the standings before then so the noose can really tighten.


    26 Aug 15 at 5:11 am

Leave a Reply