Nationals Arm Race

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

Operation “First tough stretch of the season” underway…


Loved the Robinson homer ... even it if cost me in fantasy.  Photo via

Loved the Robinson homer … even it if cost me in fantasy. Photo via

We all know the Nats had a cream-puff schedule in April.  And they delivered; despite a somewhat inexplicable sweep at home to Philadelphia, they finished 14-7 in their first 21 games against basically a collection of teams that aren’t really trying in 2016.

14-7 is a nifty 108 win pace by the way.  Just saying 🙂

We all were looking at this first road trip as the first true test; they havn’t played the Mets  yet, they havn’t really had much of a struggle (outside of a couple of pretty good Philadelphia young arms).  They were going to their old nemesis St. Louis (where they’ve always struggled, year over year), then 3 games at the defending WS champs (and in an AL park with their inherent DH advantage), and then to top it off 4 games in Chicago against a team that looks more and more like its gonna win 110 games (hyperbole, if only slightly; they’re 17-6 right now and that’s a ridiculous 120 win pace).

I didn’t think the Nats would win three games this entire trip.  Imagine my surprise that they frigging SWEPT St. Louis, in St. Louis, in three games that honestly weren’t really that close?  Strasburg, Ross and Scherzer pitched like bosses (no pun intended), and gave up a combined 3 earned runs in their 20 innings.  They won a game yesterday where Harper struck out four times.  They got great clutch hitting from unlikely sources (Espinosa, Robinson, Taylor) and they got a turn-back-the-clock Saturday from Werth.

What does this mean?

Well, for one, I think this already bumps up their projected win totals on the year.  You know the adage; dominate the bad teams and break even with the good ones.  I’ve got a little spreadsheet where I have projected Win/Loss totals for the season and it goes like this:

  • The team basically breaks even with the entire rest of the league: 43-41 against the NL Central, NL West and in Interleague
  • The team goes 13-6 against Atlanta, 12-7 against Philly and 11-8 against Miami.
  • The team goes 9-10 against the Mets (they have an extra home game in NY this year) for a combined 45-31 in-division.

If the team does this, then they win 88 games.  Probably not enough to make the playoffs.  So to improve on 88 wins, they need to pick up “extra” wins here and there.  Instead of going 13-6 against Atlanta maybe they go something ridiculous like 18-1 or 17-2 (they’re already 6-0).  They picked up an “extra” win against Minnesota already, sweeping them at home.

I had them going 1-2 in St. Louis in this scenario; going 3-0 is amazing.  Lets see what they can do in KC.  I’m hoping for 1 win out of 3.  They’re giving KC their two “worst” starters and they’re not really hitting well as a team, but what it does mean is that the Cubs will get Ross and Scherzer on the weekend.  Should be fun.

Written by Todd Boss

May 2nd, 2016 at 9:12 am

80 Responses to 'Operation “First tough stretch of the season” underway…'

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  1. The Nats have the best team ERA in baseball right now, fueled by a starting rotation that has been absolutely amazing. Can they keep it up?

    Scherzer (big time bounce back yesterday) and Strasburg will no doubt. Gio has done it before, and it seems like Dusty’s kick in the pants this spring has done him a world of good.

    Meanwhile, Dusty’s overt show of confidence in Roark and Ross really seems to have helped both. Ross will come down to earth a bit, obviously, from his sub-1.00 ERA, but he does look like he’ll be at least a solid MLB pitcher long term. As for Roark, all he’s done as a starting pitcher in 53 career starts is consistently give the team a chance to win every time he takes the mound.

    It’s a pretty darn good group, with Voth (1.63 ERA, 26/3 K/BB ratio at AAA) and Giolito waiting in the wings if one gets hurt. The Mets’ young guns may be sexier to the media, but they might not as a whole be any any better.

    Karl Kolchack

    2 May 16 at 10:19 am

  2. My big prediction on the Mets starters this year was that they’d suffer injury hangovers/regression from last year. And so far its coming true; deGrom missed a couple of starts already with injury and Harvey sports a 4.76 ERA through 5 starts. His FIP is a point lower … but he’s putting a ton of guys on base. How Ironic would it be if Harvey, the latest poster-boy debate subject matter for the “how you should and shouldn’t treat a pitcher post TJ surgery” completely fell apart because he threw so many innings last year while Strasburg posts a sub 2.00 ERA?

    Completely agree about Voth’s production; i don’t think he’s the “next guy called up” for a start necessarily but come 5/14 we’ll find out.

    Dusty is pulling all the strings. Sitting guys and sticking with it and having it pay off time and time again.

    Todd Boss

    2 May 16 at 10:32 am

  3. I have been very impressed with the pitching, especially the rotation (honestly, how could you not? results plus stuff = happy days) and the defense, which is not only making the routine plays (low errors) but a decent amount of hard ones (good defensive efficiency). That is a great recipe for a good regular season.

    Offense has been meh; some signs of encouragement but an equal amount of worry. Jury is still out.

    I also have seen some concerning signs from Dusty on bullpen usage. Overusing some guys like Rivero, and getting guys hot but never using them. Not startling yet, but an area to watch.


    2 May 16 at 10:44 am

  4. For the May 14 double-header start, Voth might be the leader for that duty if not for a prickly detail: he’s not on the 40-man. (Neither is Giolito.) Would the Nats risk a DFA of someone like Difo, who is currently struggling mightily? I doubt it. So we’re probably looking at Cole or Petit.


    2 May 16 at 12:26 pm

  5. KW yeah totally agree; the Nats aren’t cutting someone loose just to make a spot start, not with several other options.

    My personal “first guy off” the 40-man right now goes like this: Goodwin, Jordan, Martin, Difo. Except that Goodwin is finally hitting the ball, Jordan has a solid start and Martin has just 9 innings after posting some ridiculous 15 K/9 rate in his stint last year. So who would you actually cut?

    Todd Boss

    2 May 16 at 12:38 pm

  6. What does it say in the grand scheme of things that the Phils and Marlins currently have as good or better records than the Cards, Dodgers, Giants, and D-Backs? I don’t know. I didn’t see anything from the Cards that scared me. I think the Nats are putting themselves in very, very good position to make the playoffs. It might be the wild card, as the Mets are also good, but the Nats at present look like they belong in the NL elite. And that’s without the Nats hitting much yet at all. By contrast, the Mets have a bunch of guys hitting at paces that history suggests they won’t sustain.

    It will be an interesting week in KC and CHI-town. The best part of the equation is that the Nats have put themselves in a position where they can afford some hiccups record-wise. Their bad April last year took away that margin of error.

    But overall, this just looks like a better team, all the way around. Revere should be back by the weekend. Rendon is having terrible BABIP luck but isn’t striking out much, so the hits will start to fall for him. And Bryce is so good that he managed to have his funk in a series where they didn’t really need him!

    If the lineup comes around as it should, and the rotation comes anywhere close to maintaining its current pace, . . .


    2 May 16 at 12:56 pm

  7. Martin has struggled this year and might have put himself on the DFA block. I still think Jordan has some trade value. Right now for the Nats, you would think he’s long-man protection behind Petit, certainly not high on the list of potential starters. I don’t think you could slip Goodwin through a DFA right now, with him *finally* hitting (although with 21 Ks against 10 BBs, so don’t get too excited).


    2 May 16 at 1:00 pm

  8. A quick note about the doubleheader on May 14: the Nats may bring up a position player or a bullpen arm for the day instead of a starting pitcher. The team has off days the Thursday before and the Monday after. Because of that, the Nats can cover all of their games with a starter who is pitching on regular rest or better.

    This may well have factored into the teams’ decision to agree on the 14th as the makeup date.

    John C.

    2 May 16 at 1:09 pm

  9. Good points, John. I’d say stay with the regular rotation. If it ain’t broke . . .


    2 May 16 at 1:27 pm

  10. I failed to do the analysis that John just did out of laziness (or busyness); if we don’t have to bring someone up then all the better. I’d much rather give a spot start to Petit than gamble with Cole or Jordan. I mean, that’s kinda why they got the guy.

    Todd Boss

    2 May 16 at 1:58 pm

  11. On Rendon, from Boz in his chat today: “I saw him put on a BP power show in Atlanta on opening day that really surprised me. Enormously high, lots of backspin and surprising extra carry. Ball after ball 10-to-20 rows deep in leftcenter in a spacious park. What you’d expect from a much bigger man, like Ramos. One of the Nats said he showed more power all spring in Viera. It’s not translating to games — yet. IOW, I don’t have a clue.”


    2 May 16 at 2:44 pm

  12. John, was that you with the statistical deconstruction of JZimm’s hot start in Boz’s chat?


    2 May 16 at 2:47 pm

  13. Boswell is obsessed with Rendon’s ability to “put backspin” on the ball. You know what would impress me? A batting average that starts with a 2.

    Todd Boss

    2 May 16 at 2:58 pm

  14. Rendon’s BA is actually .240. It’s the SLG of .292 and the ISO of .052 that are particularly painful.


    2 May 16 at 3:14 pm

  15. That wasn’t me on Boz’s chat. For one thing, I would never site a 1mph velocity loss in April as indicative of decline. It’s not at all uncommon for pitchers to increase in velocity as the weather warms and they get their mechanics in sync.

    John C.

    2 May 16 at 3:32 pm

  16. Agreed on the velocity. And I do wish JZimm well. But the Nats made the right decision in letting him walk, particularly after he turned down an offer that ended up being close to the number where he signed. Whether dropping the bundle on Scherzer to replace him was the right move remains to be seen, but for now, he is a strong top-of-the-rotation guy. And when you add stealing Ross to the equation . . .

    Every time I read that the Nats think TJ elbows have a shelf life of 6-8 years, though, I remember that Giolito got his in 2012 . . .


    2 May 16 at 5:31 pm

  17. Hopefully, Revere’s return will be a big boost for the offense overall. Rendon will be batting with someone on first much more ofter, with that runner causing havoc for the opposing pitcher with his speed. Plus, Taylor will be relegated to the bench where he has unfortunately proven he belongs.

    A month from now Turner will likely give them another boost. I wonder if Dusty will consider batting Turner 9th so that he and Revere will be hitting back-to-back after the first inning. That would be a fun combo to watch on the basepaths, and would take the pressure off Turner until he gets comfortable as a big leaguer.

    Karl Kolchack

    2 May 16 at 6:30 pm

  18. Todd, good call on calling this Nats Arms. Lots of great discussion!

    Now if this was called Nats Bats it would be a very dull conversation.

    This will still be a place to talk about Dusty Bakers inability to understand defensive substitutions in laye innings.

    Mark L

    2 May 16 at 11:04 pm

  19. Here’s a stat: counting the first game in KC, and not counting Ross’s abbreviated 2-inning start, Nats’ starters have now given up two or fewer earned runs with at least 6 innings pitched in 18 of 24 games.

    Karl Kolchack

    2 May 16 at 11:46 pm

  20. What a gutsy performance by the team in KC on Monday night, and by Gio and the bullpen in particular. One of the Nats said over the weekend that the STL series felt like playoff games, and the one on Monday did as well. If so, this version of the Nats looks a lot mentally tougher than previous editions. I don’t want to jinx them, and they’ve still got six tough games left on the road trip, but it’s hard not to like what we’ve seen thus far. If we can just get that Harper kid going . . .


    3 May 16 at 8:03 am

  21. Go Nats. They’ve already won more games on this road trip than I thought they would.

    Todd Boss

    3 May 16 at 8:54 am

  22. So, in their first games in an AL park this year the Nats used … Stephen Drew as their DH. Yeah.

    This is why I continue to rail for a universal rule across both leagues regarding the DH. NL teams are at a distinct disadvantage playing in AL parks because of this rule; the Nats aren’t seeking a veteran slugger/bat-only type of guy to fill a DH slot when constructing their team; they’re looking for utility guys like Drew. So when it comes time to play an AL team they’re lining up a guy on a veteran’s minimum salary against a slugger like Kendrys Morales on an 8 figure deal.

    And honestly, the “reverse argument” (i.e., well when AL teams come to NL parks their pitchers aren’t as good as NL pitchers) doesn’t hold much water since its like the difference between a guy hitting .150 and a guy hitting .180.

    Todd Boss

    3 May 16 at 9:16 am

  23. Maybe Dusty was just trying to get Drew some ABs, since C-Rob and den Dekker played on Sunday. Maybe Dusty thinks Drew knows the AL pitchers better since he’s been in that league in recent years. For what it’s worth, Maddux should know the AL hitters well.

    I wonder whether Maddux would have any interest in being considered for the manager’s job whenever Dusty rides off into the sunset. Then he could bring in his baby bro as the pitching coach . . .

    Yeah, at the start of the road trip, I would have taken 4-6. So it’s all gravy from here on out, right?


    3 May 16 at 10:42 am

  24. I saw a couple of people who theorized it was because Drew has decent career numbers against Volquez (4 for 11 going in). Given the SSS (and it isn’t clear when those ABs took place), I kind of hope that isn’t what the Nats were relying on for their lineup decisions.

    I think that Clint Robinson is practically a natural born DH; I also think that Werth will get a turn at DH either today or tomorrow.

    John C.

    3 May 16 at 11:29 am

  25. It’s impressive to see what the Nats have done so far with so many players underperforming and with the leadoff spot unsettled (no Revere).

    I think Voth is the next man in line right now. He has the most moxie and the best command.

    One lesson that we are also learning from the early part of this year is that the Nats draft of 2015 is one of the great stories of the decade for the organization, without exaggeration, on par with the 2013 GCL Nats. And the returns are still developing.

    With no expectations before this year, we have begun to witness very promising early returns for Ian Sagdal, Jorge Pantoija, Tommy Peterson, and Mick van Vossen. We were already very happy with Lee, Glover, Schrock, Stevenson, Rivera, Brinley, Crownower, and have reason to wait with anticipation for Borne, Dulin, Hearn, Perkins, Kerian, Watson, and Wiseman, and have not yet heard from DiNatale, Pirro, and Mooney. It is by comparison an unbelievable organizational haul and transformative to organizational health. Whomever was responsible has to be retained and rewarded with more staffing resources, period.

    That depth is going to translate a couple of years from now. And if the Nats become champions with this group, it is key to developing a sustained run in the Yankees-Braves mode.


    3 May 16 at 1:31 pm

  26. Like KW, I was hoping for 4-6, considering how bad they looked against a lousy Phillies team.
    Agreeing with fore on what looks to be an historic 2015 draft.

    Here’s a great stat for you– in April the Atlanta Braves hit 5 home runs! As a team.

    Mark L

    3 May 16 at 2:52 pm

  27. Grrrrr…I think tonight may be the night when the Papledouche deathwatch can officially begin. Even putting aside what happened with Harper last year, his 90 MPH fastball isn’t scaring anybody.

    Karl Kolchack

    3 May 16 at 11:41 pm

  28. Did anyone call out Pap for his effort and try to choke him in the dugout? Just sayin’ . . . and on a night that the Mets lost to the Braves . . .

    Other than the bitter end, it’s hard not to like how the Nats have performed thus far in the big series. And the bats other than Bryce seem to be coming around. Obviously we’ve just got to put games out of reach of “save situations”!


    4 May 16 at 7:39 am

  29. Actually, I thought his fastball wasn’t the problem last night. He was consistently hitting 93 and the Royals were not catching up to it. They missed or fouled off his fastball several times. But he was having trouble executing his offspeed pitches, and he kept going back to them.

    For the umpteenth millionth time, I will remind fans that bad results =/= bad effort/indifference/etc. The Royals are a defending WS champion and two-time defending AL pennant winner that won an AL best 95 games last season. Their MO is late inning comebacks. This sort of thing is going to happen during a season, especially when playing good teams.

    John C.

    4 May 16 at 10:23 am

  30. Well, thats two blown saves/losses that Papelbon now has this year. One was blowing a game where the Nats had taken the lead in the top of the 10th. Last night was 5 hits surrendered, four of which were pretty well hit. I thought Zuckerman put it pretty well here:

    Papelbon’s K rate is way, way down. Like, the lowest in the majors for a closer down. In this day and age of upper 90s closers being a dime a dozen, its a fair question to ask whether Papelbon has “lost it.” Tanner Roark was averaging 94.1 last night, Papelbon just 92.3 (per pitch f/x data at brooks:

    not good.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 16 at 10:59 am

  31. Has Papelbon’s velocity decreased significantly from his velocity in 2014 and 2015? Because, his Nats experience notwithstanding, he was very effective as a closer in 2014 and 2015. Or is there an indication that his pitches’ rotation rate, movement or location have changed? I’d be more concerned with a change in movement or rotation rate than location, since location is more easily fixable.

    John C.

    4 May 16 at 12:09 pm

  32. IIRC, in Pap’s two blown saves, his velocity was up a bit. I wonder if that impacts his command just enough, since superior command is what he is really relying on these days.

    I didn’t see the 9th inning, but if John C is correct that KC had trouble with his FB, then the above statement doesn’t offer an explanation. I think that he certainly deserves more rope, but also hope that the Nats decide by ASB if they don’t think he can handle the role effectively.


    4 May 16 at 12:46 pm

  33. I was also asleep by the bitter end, but here’s a question for John and whoever was still watching. I’ve seen comments elsewhere that Pap shook off Ramos a lot last night. Was he shaking off to get to the fastball, which John says was working, or was he shaking away from the heater and getting hurt?


    4 May 16 at 1:13 pm

  34. Papelbon’s velocity charts at fangraphs:

    2007: max of 100, average of 94.5; it stayed around that level til 2010. However in 2013 there was a big shift: 92avg, 95.5 peak. That’s 2 and a half clicks off his best average and 4.5 clicks off his peak veolcity.

    2016 so far: 95.5 peak, 90.8 average. Whoa. His average last year was 91.4 so he’s down.

    Yes its early and lots of guys don’t really dial it up in April. Fair point. But he’s not a starter; he’s paid to be a closer, paid to throw max effort for one inning. And he’s losing his fastball quickly. That seems evident in the numbers and is in line with Zuckerman’s article.

    I’m concerned. I mean, on the one hand maybe we’re ok kind of “hiding” him in that role so he can “protect” 3 run leads in the ninth. But on the other hand, you just cannot blow 2-run leads on the road to good teams; those are losses that are going to come back to haunt you.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 16 at 1:23 pm

  35. @Todd – great points. Not to mention, do the Nats REALLY want to go into the playoffs with him as the closer given their history with blown crucial games in the postseason? Better to have someone else in place long before then.

    Karl Kolchack

    4 May 16 at 2:23 pm

  36. Should we be concerned about Harper’s slump? He’s 1 for 20 something, mostly striking out and hitting very weak balls. I know its early and a really small sample size.

    old man

    4 May 16 at 2:32 pm

  37. Six runs in the first is a good start toward avoiding the closer today (Thurs.). Keep going that way and C-Rob can “close.” Pap would get the day off anyway after two days in a row, and it would be good to save Rivero for Wrigley as well.


    4 May 16 at 3:02 pm

  38. Removing Papelbon from the closer role would definitely come with its own set of issues; like, how would a known “volatile” personality who forced contractural guarantees to come here handle being demoted? Even if it was warranted by performance?

    6 runs again in the first; man this team has been jumping out on people!

    Harper slump: i dunno what to think.

    Royals Starting rotation: how exactly does this team think its gonna compete with a rotation that goes Volquez, Ventura, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young and Kris Medlen? That’s a decent #2 in Volquez, an erratic #3 in Ventura, a veteran FA who was at best a #5 last year in a huge hitters’s park, and then two MLFAs. The Nats are teeing off on Medlen like they know what’s coming.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 16 at 3:25 pm

  39. But on the other hand, you just cannot blow 2-run leads on the road to good teams; those are losses that are going to come back to haunt you.

    All losses suck, and blown leads late really suck, but good teams come back, and some times will come back late. It’s another aspect of the “good pitching is hard to hit” – good teams are hard to beat. No, what really hurts is blowing leads late to really crappy teams. And yet, blowing leads late to crappy teams will probably happen to pretty much every playoff team in the league at some point this year.

    The Mets have played the reeling Giants and the putrid Braves in NY while the Nats have been embarked on the “Road Trip of DOOOM.” And the Nats have actually gained a game in the standings. That will likely change this weekend, but the Nats will be close at the end of the RTOD pretty much regardless. The Mets are about to go on a west coast road trip, but unless the Dodgers take advantage of an off day to skip a starter the Mets will catch a HUGE break in that they will play the Dodgers a four game set in LA and yet not face Kershaw.

    John C.

    4 May 16 at 5:03 pm

  40. You could definitely say that the Nats got “lucky” in the pitchers they just faced in KC: i’d say they saw the #1, #4 and #5 while their #3 guys (Kennedy) is pitching the best. Man they pounded Medlen today.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 16 at 6:43 pm

  41. Coincidentally, my win projections for this team have now jumped from 88 at the start of the season to 95 with their results against Minn/Stl/KC. Might be crazy, but i’m starting to get kinda of excited.

    I predicted a 1-3 series in Chicago btw. If they split it i’d be ecstatic.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 16 at 6:54 pm

  42. Right now, it’s hard to know who the “really crappy” teams are. Look at the standings. If the season ended today, the NL wild cards would be the Mets . . . and the PHILLIES. Not only that, the next team in line would be the Marlins. Sweeps this week have left the Pirates and Cards reeling, and neither the Dodgers nor the Giants look particularly good, either. The lack of pitching depth with both is coming back to haunt them.

    The four games with the Cubbies should be interesting. They have the best record in baseball, the Nats have the second-best. We miss Lester; they miss Stras. Let’s hope the slo-pitch softball game on Wed. got the Nat bats locked in, particularly Harper’s.


    5 May 16 at 5:22 am

  43. Cubs offense notoriously struck out a ton last year; so far this year they’re 4th best in the league in K%. 99 wrc+ as a team against Lefties, 115 against righties. So i’m guessing we’re going to see a lot of Perez/Rivero/Solis this weekend.

    Todd Boss

    5 May 16 at 8:21 am

  44. I don’t think missing Lester is as big a deal for the Nationals as missing Strasburg is for the Cubs. Lester is a very good pitcher, don’t get me wrong, but the Nats simply tattoo LHP (.832 OPS against, vs. .697 vs. RHP; they were also better against LHP last year). Getting Hendrickson instead of Lester is no bonus – Hendrickson’s ERA is higher than Lester’s, but his FIP and K/BB are actually better, and their WHIP is virtually identical. Any difference in quality between the pitchers is, IMHO, outweighed by the Nats own preference for LHP.

    John C.

    5 May 16 at 10:01 am

  45. It’s only May, it’s only May, it’s only May . . . but it sure would be nice to make a strong early statement. The pitching matchups should favor the Nats a little on Thursday, a lot on Friday (if the real Max is really back), then turn cloudy on Saturday and pretty dim on Sunday. That said, Roark is a bulldog and doesn’t seem to care who he’s facing. We’ll see. Being realistic, a split would be good.


    5 May 16 at 12:24 pm

  46. Well, nothing lost in the standings, just in pride. Ross looked quite ready and capable of pitching in big games. His colleagues with the bats and the gloves need to step it up, though. They’ve got to execute better in tight games. Plus it looks like Maddon is going to have them pitch around Harper if at all possible.


    6 May 16 at 8:18 am

  47. Lester/Strasburg; well in all fairness that’s basically both teams missing each other’s #2 starter right? So yes Strasburg is “better” but its still even-steven there.

    More concerning is the Nats only mustering 3 measly hits in a game where Kyle frigging Hendricks starts. Uh; if they can only get 3 hits in that game … what happens when Arrieta takes the ball? Are we getting no-hit?

    Ross: Love Ross; snapped him up in fantasy and he has not disappointed.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 9:14 am

  48. We’re about to solve the Taylor problem. But the glaring problem and biggest disappointment so far is Rendon. It’s not that early anymore and he’s been atrocious from day one. He needs to be moved down in the lineup if he doesn’t getting going very soon. There is no reason he should be in position to get significantly more at bats than Murphy.

    Todd, you’ll remember i advocated trading Rendon last year when his value was still very high. I just don’t like his demeanor or game. Not aggressive at the plate… and absolutely zero clutch. Can you remember him having a walk off hit? I think he’s a Sergio Garcia type who now shies away or doesn’t want to be in the spotlight or clutch situations. In any case… he’s morphing into an Espinosa. Great glove, sketchy bat. For a guy who was supposed to be elite bat, he’s never even had his average over .300 for more than a couple weeks in his career.

    As for Espi… he looks strange out there at SS. he’s playing it like 2b waiting on everything then having to gun a 200mph fastball to first. The job is getting done but it doesn’t look smooth like everyone raves about his defense. And he’s been saved by scorekeeper on a handful of close error calls. I watch every game and I hardly ever see the Nat’s get on base due to error by opposing team’s SS.

    Anyway… Murphy has shown it’s worth sacrificing a bit of defense to get an elite bat in a spot. The one or two non routine plays an elite guy makes a month is not worth 120 lousy at bats and dozens of rally kills.

    On the bright side.. Werth’s power stroke is back. 6 Home runs already.
    Starting pitching is amazing so far. Murphy holding the offense together.

    Marty C

    6 May 16 at 10:23 am

  49. I know that Dusty likes his L/R/L/R lineup, but against some righties, why not stack Revere, Murphy, and Harper at the top of the order? Perhaps Werth could get a look at cleanup as well. The Cubs have already shown that they’re not going to give Bryce anything with no one on base in front of him. Dusty hasn’t been flexible at all with his lineup, though, so I doubt he’s going to shake it up much unless they fall into a real losing streak.

    I do hope they pull the trigger on making Turner the starter at the end of the month, but I have my doubts. Davey would have done it in a heartbeat, but Dusty loves the vets.


    6 May 16 at 10:52 am

  50. Rendon: He’s inarguably talented; collegiate player of the year, projected 1-1 player, a 5win player in 2014. He’s a great defender by any measure; great UZR/150 numbers at both 2nd and 3rd, good DRS figures. Yes he’s struggled so far in 2016, and I wouldn’t be opposed to putting him 6th or 7th as a result. But dump him/trade him? No way. I know you don’t like his “body language” at the plate but … well Arizona basically dumped Justin Upton for 50 cents on the dollar for similar reasons and look what that got them; Martin Prado and a bunch of minor leaguers. Some guys just “look” more casual at the plate; it doesn’t mean they’re lethargic or lackadasical.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 1:04 pm

  51. Espinosa at Short: . SSS but so far he’s got a positive UZR rating for 2016. Other defensive numbers are counting stats (like DRS) so its way too early to say whether he’s good or bad out there. Personally; i’ve always thought he was a better SS than Desmond and was just playing 2nd base because Desmond got there first.

    Murphy at 2nd: classic example of hwo you can sacrifice defense to get a better bat at certain places in the field (2nd, lf, 1B).

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 1:06 pm

  52. Turner coming up; I don’t think it happens until there’s an injury. Say Rendon gets hurt; you could put Murphy at 3B (he played 352 innings there last year for the Mets), Turner at 2B, keep Espinosa at short for his defense. If Murphy goes down, slide in Turner at 2B. If Zimmerman gets hurt (or perhaps “when”) then Murphy slides over and again Turner slides to 2B. I like all these moves and think Turner improves.

    As for replacing Espinsoa …. i think you’re looking at half a season before Dusty makes that move.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 1:09 pm

  53. Now, that being said (about Turner/Espinosa), there are certain pundits who cannot stand Espinosa and can’t believe Turner is still in AAA. This is cut-n-pasted from Keith Law’s chat yesterday:

    Joshua: Keith, what numbers would you see Trea Turner putting up if he were brought up tomorrow? Obviously one answer is “better than Espinosa”, but how much better? Thanks.
    Klaw: I think he could post a .340 OBP, steal a bunch of bases, and play above average defense at short right now. That’s worlds better than the zero they’re getting.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 1:10 pm

  54. Point is.. there are not that many bad shortstops in MLB when it comes to the routine plays. We rarely get on base on a routine play error by the other team’s shortstop. The crazy defensive plays don’t happen that often. So Espi in very replaceable.

    I think we lose many more hits against with our outfield defense with Werth and Taylor there with plays near the wall than we do in the infield.

    Transforming the contact rate of the team with Revere and Murphy gets ruined if you leave Espi and Taylor in big roles. Turner should more than make up for in speed and contact than he loses for us on defense. If we could live with Desmond’s scores of errors for years, I can live with Turner flubbing a few. Then trade upgrades should consider another a Zobrist type infielder to replace Rendon as Murphy can play 2nd or 3rd.

    Goodwin is really raking now in AAA. Might he be worth a look now as an alternative to Taylor as our top high level OF prospect? Robles, Schrock, and Ward are also having great starts down a couple levels.

    Marty C

    6 May 16 at 1:21 pm

  55. Marty, not to call you reactionary or anything … but you want to dump Rendon for a slow start, who has a top-5 MVP season on his resume but extoll the virtues of Brian Goodwin, who hit .226 and .219 in AA and AAA the last two years and has never had a MLB at-bat? I mean, can we say “short sample sizes?” 🙂

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 1:30 pm

  56. Espinosa routine vs non-routine plays: The best measure i know of to measure a SS’s range and ability to “get” to balls others won’t is the Zone rating system. And Espinosa constantly rate well there. I trust those numbers more than my eyeballs when it comes to judging a defensive player.

    I’m not entirely sold yet on Turner’s ability to be a slap hitter in the majors honestly. he was 9 for 40 with practically zero power in his stint last fall, and that was against some very suspect pitching down the stretch playing Atlanta and Philly teams who had basically given up. I have no issues with him in AAA right now.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 1:33 pm

  57. Todd, the first 50 comments have disappeared from my viewing. Oh well, I probably didn’t say anything too profound anyway . . .

    Dusty strikes me as very much a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it” kind of guy. He also seems big on giving vets a lot of chances to get going. That said, he did keep Turner around until the final cut and gave every indication to him and den Dekker that they were the 26th and 27th guys. So Trea is very much on his radar.

    It won’t be all Dusty’s call, either. There was every indication that Rizzo brought up Trea in desperation last year . . . only to watch Matt not play him. Dusty also has the ready advice of two all-star middle infielders, Speier and Lopes. I’m sure they gave him nuanced feedback on how close Trea is fielding-wise.

    As for Rendon, to put it simply, there are no alternatives. Yeah, you could put Murphy at 3B and Turner at 2B, but then you’re still playing Espi, OVER Rendon. Or there’s Drew and his three hits all season.

    I actually think Rendon is one of the big keys to how far this club can go this year.


    6 May 16 at 2:15 pm

  58. Rendon sends his 1st-inning greetings.


    6 May 16 at 2:41 pm

  59. I wonder if WP just hides the first 50, thinking we all remembered what we said already 🙂 Actually i’m sure its some setting that i havn’t found yet.

    Yes, speaking of SSS … Rendon’s ears must have been burning. 🙂 Nats have a distinct SP advantage today; should be a W.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 2:54 pm

  60. how about an RBI single from the pitcher!

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 2:55 pm

  61. …. and i eat my words as Scherzer gives up 4 in the first 3 innings. aWesome.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 3:26 pm

  62. Comments 1-50 should be back; found the setting that was hiding them.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 4:07 pm

  63. Wow. 4 frigging homers off of Scherzer. Nice day.

    Todd Boss

    6 May 16 at 4:10 pm

  64. Rendon not short sample size. He was horrible for 100 games last year and all Spring too. Goodwin you have to enjoy the glimmer of hope as it’s a long time coming and Taylor is an extreme long shot to change that low contact, low BA profile.

    Todd… if you can’t bring yourself to be critical of Espinosa, then there is almost no player in MLB who would fail to meet your standards. He is arguably the worst hitter in baseball who’s had 1500 ab’s the last few years. So by definition, any good glove SS could replace him. A team full of Espinosa’s would get no hit 30 times a year and get 50% of it’s baserunners from bunts and HBP.

    Nats have to be getting worried about Scherzer. $210 million for a guy who plays 1 out of 5 games has to be ultra elite and he is not that. We better keep drafting pitchers as I doubt the Lerner’s will ever go huge money for a free agent pitcher again. JZimm and Strasburg at their peak salaries for us at least you can amortize the cheap years we got out of them.

    Marty C

    6 May 16 at 9:27 pm

  65. What do you do when your #5 pitcher is making $30 mil a year.

    That nose ring that Scott Boras has attached to the Lerners is not looking so good these days.

    On the plus side, Jason Werth may have found his stroke, which I thought was list forever. Here’s hoping.

    Mark L

    6 May 16 at 11:35 pm

  66. @Marty C – Goodwin worth a look? Sorry, but no. Hitting well for 100 PAs this year does’t trump the fact that he was absolutely horrid for over 800 PAs in 2014 & 2015. He also has never developed either the power or the stolen base skills they thought he would. Even this year he has only 2 HRs and 2 SBs.

    With Revere healthy, I’d much rather have Taylor’s power pinch hitting and his baserunning skills pinch running late in games than those of an untested 25 year old whose had one good month at AAA.

    Karl Kolchack

    7 May 16 at 1:17 am

  67. The Nats have now lost two games in their last four where they scored six runs. That cannot happen. The primary culprits in those two were Pap and Max, the best-compensated and supposed leaders of the pitching tribe. Whatever supposed adjustment that Scherzer had made in STL, he lost it when he left his native state.

    We’ve found the Achilles heel for the Cubs: their bullpen. The Nats just have to do better in making their starters work. The Cubs may win a hundred games, but they’re not going to end the curse with that bullpen. It will be interesting to see what Theo does as the year progresses.

    The Nats’ great rally in the 8th on Friday ended with Danny taking two pitches down the middle while flailing at one in the dirt. I am so sick and tired of seeing that lame act over and over.

    Anyway, the good news from Friday: collectively, the team fought back. Murphy looks worth every penny and then some. He’s having a career year. So is Ramos in his contract drive. Rendon checked in, and Werth continued to show life. Revere made good contact in nearly every AB but had nothing to show for it. Things will be OK, although maybe not until Monday, considering the weekend pitching matchups. Oh, and the Mets have blown two to a team that is decidedly not the Cubs.


    7 May 16 at 7:58 am

  68. Oh, and also count me in the camp of those who think that Goodwin still has a lot to prove over a much longer period of time. As others have noted, he is still yet to show the power to play a corner OF spot or the speed to play CF. I’m still not sold on Taylor as an everyday player long term for the Nats, but he’s still well ahead of Goodwin in the pecking order.


    7 May 16 at 8:05 am

  69. I’m not championing Goodwin. Just pointing out the fact that he is finally hitting, which you must consider a good thing vs. bad.

    I’m also looking under every rock for an alternative to Taylor. Anyone with a glimmer of hope you must agree is a possible alternative to Taylor. You guys must be able to see he is tracking wuarely in the Desmond- Espi horrible strikeout and contact path. I don’t see how he’s going to improve on that. He may have his few hot streaks and long home runs which keep bringing you faithful back, but he is what he is, which is another swing and miss rally killer. Most teams don’t give players 5000 at bats to prove they suck like we do.

    And your hopeful thoughts on Rendon is exactly why I want to trade
    him. We all have our opinions on players, and you are valuing him like an MVP and I value him as a non clutch average player. So if GM’s share your opinion, then he has great trade value by my perspective. His stretches as average and below average are now much longer than his stretches of greatness. Notice I’m not advocating trading Espi or Taylor because I think everyone agrees they have little trade value from any perspective.

    Marty C

    7 May 16 at 8:56 am

  70. Rendon was hurt last year, and when he came back his idiot manager played him out of position the rest of the way so that Yunel Escobar could ALSO play out of position the rest of the way. So I throw out 2015. Yes i’m concdrned about his start this year but (even more so than Espinosa) there’s just no fall back.

    Espinosa: its not that i’m not critical of him. I see his batting average and his OPS+. Its just that I don’t trust the alternatives right now. Look at Corey Seager in LA: presumptive best prospect in baseball last year, ton of power, good D. He’s struggling right now too (I know; he’s killing my fantasy team). But Espinosa still has some stuff going for him; good defense, great arm, switch hitter, he has power. A .220 SS who has plus defense and hits 20 homers is pretty valuable these days. That’s always how i’ve viewed Espinosa (career .228 hitter, career 17 hrs/season average extrapolated to 162 games).

    Todd Boss

    7 May 16 at 12:02 pm

  71. The two big things in talking about trading Rendon: 1) to do it now, the Nats would be selling low; and 2) they don’t have a whole lot with which to replace him. Yes, Murphy could move to 3B and do reasonably well. Assuming that Turner eventually takes over at SS, that leaves “replacing” Rendon in the lineup with Espinosa or Drew, or Difo or Bostick if you’re looking farther down the food chain. I just don’t see them being able to trade for a 3B or a 2B who would offer the same combo of cost control and potential that they’ve got in Rendon.

    I’m much closer to agreement on Taylor. His 2016 sample actually looks worse than his 2015 one. The Nats have Werth and Revere under contract through 2017, although of course the warranty on Werth is tenuous. (Revere was supposed to be the one who never gets hurt!) And then of course after 2018, there’s a threat that we might lose the guy in RF, but we’re not going to think about that because it’s too painful. So . . .

    . . . and assuming that they can’t get Harper extended, then what? Can Taylor be a MLB regular? I’m pretty sure that Goodwin isn’t one. Robles hasn’t turned 19 yet and is in A-, so while we may dream on him, we can’t bank on him, or Wiseman, or Perkins. Stevenson is moving up faster, so they should have a good sense whether they think he can cut it verses whether they need to re-sign Revere. We dismiss den Dekker as a potential regular, but he looked pretty good with regular playing time in late 2015. No, he’s not the ideal producer at corner OF for a contending team, but they could do worse (and have done so many times).

    So were does that leave us? Really needing Taylor to turn into that 25/25 guy he has the talent to be. But he’s not getting any better on the MLB bench. I personally think he needs an extended stint in Syracuse to see if he can find his stroke.

    Or maybe we would could package Stras, Taylor, Espinosa, and a whole lot more stuff (probably including Giolito) for Trout since any chance of the Angels contending over the next couple of years just went up in a pile of TJ fairy dust.


    7 May 16 at 12:34 pm

  72. Todd, agree a lot about Espinosa. You can afford a great defensive SS as long as your 1st baseman and corner outfielders are producing consistently.

    Mark L

    7 May 16 at 3:39 pm

  73. I would back up the truck to trade for for Mike Trout. The Nats could package a lot, a lot, and get a player who would never be available to them otherwise.


    7 May 16 at 9:53 pm

  74. OK, the Nats have now lost four of the last five (through Sat.), and in three of the losses, they have scored 6, 6, and 5 runs. We talked all offseason about how the pitching had to be better, and it isn’t holding up against good teams. We’ve gotten to the Cub bullpen Fri. and Sat., but ours has melted even worse. Now we get Arrieta.

    Oh well. It’s a long season. The goal for the road trip was 5-5. We just didn’t think we’d have to “settle” for that when we were at 5-1.


    7 May 16 at 10:32 pm

  75. Yes, they look to be falling into that pattern from past years of falling short against the better clubs. But there are traps galore in this kind of near term analysis, and the better clubs are better for a reason. Plus, we always overstate the role of sequencing. Had every won/loss stayed exactly the same on this trip but the series reversed, I expect that we’d be dancing in the streets.

    To me, the Nats look like they don’t believe that they can beat the Cubs yet, and that shows up in these games. Something just happens: they miss scoring opportunities or let them back in the game when they do score. They do look competitive against everyone else so far, and that’s a plus. Let’s see them against the Mets and the LA/SF teams for another measuring stick.

    As for other early conclusions, Max is certainly a worry point. Ross, on the other hand, looks better than I expected. He reminds me of Arrieta, believe it or not. The stuff doesn’t look so incredible but the hitters clearly have trouble picking him up and there has to be a lot of late movement. If he keeps up this command, he could be the ace soon.

    The offense? Bah, I don’t love the line up and for Zim and Rendon, my worry grows each game. I am coming to a realization that they may be a level lower than I was expecting, but my expectations were high, so I think they are still playable. Maybe just not good enough to do well against the better pitchers. Only Bryce and Murph fit there right now, imo. I’d like to see Turner, and hopefully they call him up right after the magic date.

    Bullpen still somewhat better than I was expecting, but I was very concerned. Not the kind of bullpen that wins in the playoffs, but maybe be fine during the regular season.

    As for Trout, yes I’d back up the truck too but it isn’t near what KW suggested. I’d guess Giolito plus Robles to get the conversation started, probably Roark, Taylor and maybe Difo. I don’t add Turner because of Simmons plus he may be untouchable. If you want him, that’s the kind of package it’s going to take. I’d probably do it for five years of trout.


    8 May 16 at 9:39 am

  76. The “pitching doesn’t hold up against better clubs” narrative only survives if one decides that any club that the pitching does well against is obviously not one of the “better clubs.” The Nats simply snuffed the Cardinals, who at the time led the NL in R/G (after the Nats series they dropped to #2 behind the Cubs).

    And I’ll point out that the bats have hung runs on one of the best pitching staffs in MLB.

    John C.

    8 May 16 at 3:50 pm

  77. @Wally – even if the Angels were willing to trade Trout, there is no way that deal gets it done. At not quite 19 Robles is hardly a can’t miss prospect, Giolito is struggling mightily at AA this year, Roark is a Number 4 starter, Taylor’s a bench player and Difo is AAAA. They don’t come close to replacing a superstar who probably puts 5,000 extra fannies in the seats every game.

    The package would have to be more like Giolito, Turner (to play 2b), Robles, Reynaldo Lopez and Koda Glover–and if I were the Angels, I think I’d still rather have Trout.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 May 16 at 12:35 am

  78. Somehow I doubt Trout would leave FOURTEEN men on base in ONE GAME batting behind Bryce . . .

    I guess I should sort of apologize for putting the Trout thing out there, as it’s 99.9% a pipe dream. But the Angels are going to have to do something, and he’s their only real asset. Their offense, besides Trout and Yuney, has been terrible, and they just lost their ace for what figures to be most of two seasons. They’ve emptied their farm system. And they compete in one of the biggest entertainment-driven markets in the world.

    The question isn’t just how much of a package would it take to get Trout, it’s also how big of a hole would that package create with your team, both present and future. Also, the Angels need star power. The only star power I see that the Nats could give them would be Stras (unless they’d take Max and his contract). Stras goes to the AL, not the Dodgers, and the Angels would have the money to re-sign him. They’d also desperately need Taylor, as they’ve only got two decent OFs right now as it is. You’d think they’d also want Giolito and Robles just to get started. The Nats really can’t afford to give up Turner, as they desperately need help in the middle INF. I think for the rest of the season, the addition of Trout would outweigh the loss of Stras. There would have to be at least another top prospect or two, though, and/or someone like Rendon.

    But it’s not going to happen, so it’s not worth fantasizing about that much. We’ve got to find someone to give some semblance of protection to Harper, though. Otherwise, he may not see another decent pitch all season.


    9 May 16 at 8:14 am

  79. Trout trade talk: yes the Angels are in quite a pickle. But remember; their ownership group are idiots. So there’s zero chance they do anything smart with the current situation. They’re also penny-wise/pound foolish and are basing most of their decisions on not going over the luxury tax. So they’re perfectly content to run out a bunch of 4-A guys on the mound and lose 100 games with the best player in the game. BTW one of those 4-A guys in their AAA squad? Yunesky Maya! He might get off my “Nats to Oblivion” list yet!

    Honestly, i’m not sure the Nats have enough. Carve off your top 3 prospects (Giolito, Turner, Robles), and they’d probably want at least a MLB player as a replacement (i’m thinking Taylor), and since they have no pitching they’d probably want Ross too. Or maybe not; remember Trout is getting ready to be paid serious money: $33M/year in 2018,19 and 20. That’s a lot of cash going out the door for one player to then also be asking for the moon prospect wise. I’m kind of “typing as I think” on this one … and I think the Angels are screwed.

    Todd Boss

    9 May 16 at 8:42 am

  80. New posted …

    Todd Boss

    9 May 16 at 9:10 am

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