Nationals Arm Race

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

Yes they got swept by the Cubs but…


Here's something Harper didn't do a lot of this past series: swing.  Photo via

Here’s something Harper didn’t do a lot of this past series: swing. Photo via

So, even though the team just got swept in a 4-game set, I’m not really that concerned.  Why?

Well, first, the Cubs are fantastic, and I thought one win out of four would have been a good, expected result.  The Cubs missed Strasburg, our best guy (even if he’s not the “Ace” thanks to Scherzer‘s contract) while we stood up to the Cubs’ Ace Arrieta.  The Nats scored a bunch of runs against a good team and on other days may have gotten a win or two.  Am I right?

Game by Game:

  • Thurs: Lose 5-2: Joe Ross gives up 2 in 6 but the Nats muster just 3 hits against Kyle Hendricks.  Don’t deserve to win when you only get 3 hits.
  • Fri: Lose 8-6 in a game that really wasn’t that close: Max Scherzer gives up four homers, which is just crazy unlucky for him based on his typical FB/HR averages.  Nats make the scoreline respectable by getting into the Cubs bullpen for four runs late.  Don’t deserve to win when your starter gives up 4 dingers.
  • Sat: Lose 8-5 when Gio Gonzalez can’t get through the Cubs’ 3-4-5 hitters a third time.  Nats bullpen doesn’t do its job.  I kinda question the pitching management here honestly; is Solis the right guy to go to there?  Is it a smart move to let your #5 starter attempt to go through the heart of the other team’s order in a hitter’s park?  If you want to go lefty, why not go with your veteran Oliver Perez or your fireballer Felipe Rivero instead of a guy who was in Syracuse last week?  I guess its because Rivero got blitzed thursday night.   Instead Rivero comes in during garbage time and manages to load the bases and leak yet another run.
  • Sun: Lose 4-3 in extras after chasing the best pitcher in the game and squandering a fantastic outing from Tanner Roark.  Again, a leaky bullpen, this time in the same guy Perez that I thought was a better option than Solis the day before.  But the story of this game was the astounding batting lines of Bryce Harper (7 plate appearances, 6 walks and a HBP) and Ryan Zimmerman (a major league record 14 runners left on base).  The team in total left 21 runners on base and went 1-19 with RISP on the day. One for NINETEEN!  Zimmerman hit a couple balls well on the night, but none when it counted.

Total score of the series: Cubs 25, Nats 16.  Lot of runs on the bullpen.  Zero of our lefty relievers really stepped up.  Both our 8th inning guys couldn’t shut anyone down.  And clearly nobody respects anyone else in the lineup besides Harper.

Anyway; before I get all gloom and doom, the Nats just finished their hardest road trip of the year 5-5, when prior to the season I would have been happy with them going 3-7.  Thanks to sweeps in St. Louis and surprising series win in KC, i’ve still got them projected to win 95 games right now (easy math: team goes .500 against the rest of the league and interleague, plays .600 ball in their division).

Now … if they get swept in New York….


21 Responses to 'Yes they got swept by the Cubs but…'

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  1. Carrying on the Trout talk from the last thread.

    I don’t think it would happen, because Angels would be crazy to trade him, but what would Nats say to this?

    Rendon, Giolito, Robles, Fedde, Taylor for Trout

    Would be mortgaging the future for sure, but your could bring up Turner to fill in for Rendon and it wouldn’t impact the major league team this year too much unless a pitcher goes down for an extended period.

    And just imagine Trout and Harper in the outfield together. It’s what dreams are made of.


    9 May 16 at 10:53 am

  2. The issue with RISP is a chronic affliction dating to last year and beyond. That it persists reflects upon the Nats’ offseason pursuit of Cespedes and Heyward. the team needs protection for Harper, and they knew they would. That protection is not coming from Zimmerman, at least right now. And waiting for that production from others, be it Werth or Ramos, has proved risky.

    And while he may get hot, they are in a pennant race now without Trea Turner for at least a month and then, his growing pains at a new level.

    Trout is a once in a franchise acquisition by trade, and with Harper’s future uncertain, the length of his contract is even more valuable. That he plays CF is also a great value, when one considers him relative to Braun. One cannot acquire a Braun without a plan for Zimmerman or Werth, because of a lack of position flexibility. I am not so bothered by the PED suspensions, because plenty of folks have come back and shown they can still play well.

    But the Nats cannot afford to sell low on their players. The Angels need major league ready pitching, and the Nats have plenty of that, and highly valued pitching at that. So you package value for value, and trade high. That means people like Ross, Gonzalez, Rivero, and Voth, for example.

    I know what you are saying about Giolito. But Ross has more real value to the Angels in a desire to get something turnkey and controllable in return. And Giolito is selling low right now.

    So is Taylor. I am sure he is well regarded around the league, but he will not fetch what he could. I’d like to see him go back to AAA until an injury creates an opportunity for him to start again. Revere is a leadoff hitter and if Taylor cannot be in an everyday lineup, let him get his everyday at bats and make his adjustments. I think Werth is going to come around.

    I’d like to see Treinen turn back into a starter at AAA. A trade that relieves the logjam at AAA or sells off major league assets may target the Yankees Miller. I would pursue the big bat with Miller in mind. The Nats have enough sell high pieces to pull in both Miller and Trout. Along the way, however, the wild card are the expensive extra pieces like Pujols, Zimmerman, and Werth and the implications for the clubhouse. The Nats are, after all, hovering around first place and doing a lot of things right.

    But a team with both Harper and Trout in the lineup, and all of the other supports like Murphy and Turner and Rendon when he comes around, is not going to get bogged down in six walks games for long.


    9 May 16 at 10:59 am

  3. My suggestion above is that Trout may come with the price tag of a willingness to take Pujols as well. Rizzo is a clever guy and knows how t be creative.

    We cannot undersell our young, controllable pitching,even for an MVP. Think of what Shelby Miller fetched. Joe Ross and now Tanner Roark have real value.


    9 May 16 at 11:03 am

  4. One last point:

    The Nats have so much emerging depth in the lower minors relative to earlier years that they are not mortgaging the future to make a future-is-now trade. There are quite a number of players at certain positions — starting pitching being notable — who are peaking or rapidly ascending and are likely to be as luminous to others’ scouts as they are to us.


    9 May 16 at 11:06 am

  5. Oh well, I guess there’s no putting the Trout dream back in the bottle. FWIW, I think EC is on the right track of what the cost would be. As desperate as the Halos are for OFs, we could toss in Goodwin.

    Fore, you’re not prying Ross away from me for anything! Goodness, I wonder how long it’s going to take for us to start calling it the Ross-Turner trade instead of the Turner-Ross trade. Actually, originally it was just mostly thought of as the Turner trade.

    Anyway, the core of the starting rotation looks great, particularly if we do as Todd says and think of Gio as the #5. I thought we had Max on the right track after STL, but it didn’t play in Chi-town. Perhaps needless the say, the Nats have a big investment in him righting the ship.

    In terms of where the Nats are right now season-wise, it’s significant that the Mets only went 6-4 while the Nats were going 5-5 on the trip. If the Mets had thrown an 8-2 or 9-1 up in the meantime, there might be some early semi-panic. Instead, the folks who should be panicking live in Pittsburgh (-7.5) and STL (-9.0). The Cubs have left the station and aren’t coming back. But I’m not convinced that they’re going to break the curse unless Theo does something about that bullpen. Even though the Nats didn’t pull off any wins, they certainly showed how to do it — get into the Cubbie ‘pen.


    9 May 16 at 12:47 pm

  6. I am going to leave the Trout talk behind, since speculating is almost impossible, but for these two comments: (1) I’d be willing to pay a high price for him in terms of prospects/players. He is a generational talent and the chance to see him and Bryce together for the next two and 1/2 years would be worth the ramifications afterwards; (2) if Pujols is included, that almost negates Trouts surplus value and should be able to get him for marginal prospects. With the MASN sword hanging over us, I probably wouldn’t do this one unless Zim and Werth went back.

    As for the series, I think it shows that we aren’t at the Cubs level right now, especially in our minds. But most telling, I’d say that the bullpen, despite its early success, isn’t a playoff quality bullpen. It is good to know that, since it can be addressed during the season.

    So I am not terribly troubled giving away some games to the red hot Cubs, but I am concerned how they react now. Their schedule is still pretty tough through the rest of the month, and if they go into a further tailspin, I’d be worried about the team’s character or resiliency.


    9 May 16 at 1:00 pm

  7. Nats-Cubs series fallout: i think its telling that ESPN’s power rankings of the MLB teams left the Cubs and Nats 1-2 despite the 4-game sweep. Even I thought they’d drop below the White Sox and Mets. They’re catching Detroit at a great time; how about a home sweep of an AL team?

    Todd Boss

    9 May 16 at 2:12 pm

  8. I’d like their chances to beat Detroit better if they were missing JZ. You know he’s going to be motivated. That night is also BH bobblehead night, so I’d expect a huge crowd if the weather cooperates.

    But Todd is right in his initial post that the first Mets series looms large right now.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 May 16 at 4:09 pm

  9. Bryce Harper Bobble head night!? Holy sh*t Marge we gotta get to the ballpark!

    Todd Boss

    9 May 16 at 4:10 pm

  10. Todd, catching up and noticed the end of yesterdays post and read your pennywise/pound foolish reference.
    Folks, where else can you get smart baseball talk and a Benjamin Franklin quote?
    Nowhere else.

    Yes, the inability of some Nats hitters to ever hit with RISP shined an ugly light.
    1-19 again. Pathetic.

    Mark L

    9 May 16 at 7:56 pm

  11. Clint!!!

    It was reported late Sunday that Dusty was moving Murphy to cleanup and dropping RZ to 5th in the lineup–and then that didn’t happen. So of course Ryan then goes out and leaves five more runners on base.

    Robinson’s heroics emphatically made the point that he should be playing a lot more often. In his last 10 PAs, Robinson is 4 for 8 with 2 HRs, 6 RBIs and 2 BBs. That’s what you call a hot hand.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 May 16 at 10:35 pm

  12. Karl, for all the happy talk about how cool Dusty is, he’s still pathetic from a strategy standpoint.
    How soon before the f.o. starts to tell him how to do things like lineups, since he can’t understand or do it himself.

    Bringing up Trea Turner would allow the Nats to put him at 2nd and move Murphy to 1st.

    Mark L

    9 May 16 at 11:06 pm

  13. Well, the Strasburg signing certainly gives the team flexibility in terms of assets in a Trout deal. I cannot help but think that having Trout around would all the more increase Harper’s chances of staying here. Now the Angels lost Simmons.

    Kudos to Rizzo for doing the improbable on Strasburg and with Boras. It’s particularly great to see the Nats reap the benefit of 2012 in goodwill.

    And kudos to Rizzo for the plan C of Murphy. What is particularly sweet is that Zobrist is off to a good start, so is Phillips, but Murphy the best start of all, and he was the best investment/value. Huge.

    Zimmerman is an unfortunate loss. Desmond, Fister, and Span are losses that don’t hurt nearly as much.


    9 May 16 at 11:42 pm

  14. Can we wait until he finds the baseball again before we call Turner up? He’s oh for his last ten … with nine strikeouts.

    John C.

    10 May 16 at 12:47 am

  15. Stras extention. Wow, just wow. My first thought is that obviously Boras will do a deal, so let’s get it done with #34, whatever it takes.

    As for the Stras deal, it seems reasonable, all the more so if the talk of lots of deferred money is true. He would have gotten at least that much on the open market in the winter as far and away the best guy available. It does make you wonder where Giolito and others fit into the equation, though, as the Nats have everyone in the current rotation wrapped up through at least 2018. (They don’t have to pick up Gio’s options, but it would be nuts not to, even if they plan to trade him.)

    I didn’t see that one coming. Stealth Rizzo strikes again. It’s too early in the morning for me to process whether it seems worth it. The first thought is that yes, it is, as no matter how good Giolito turns out to be, he isn’t going to be as good as Stras in his prime, which is what we just bought.

    And as Fore notes, all of this does set up some interesting trade opportunities with some of the now-blocked pitching prospects.


    10 May 16 at 5:19 am

  16. Yes, JZimm vs. Max on Harper bobblehead night. Great way to fill a ballpark on a dreary Wednesday night!


    10 May 16 at 5:20 am

  17. I should have said that Giolito isn’t going to be as good RIGHT AWAY as Stras in his prime. We hope that he’s ultimately as good, or better.

    You have to wonder whether the Giolito clock just slowed. The desire to get him up this year was partially due to see how ready he was before Stras walked, and partially due to concerns that Roark and/or Ross might not hold down the back end of the rotation that well. Um, they’re now sorta the front end of the rotation (although with a few shaky peripherals). Anyway, no rush on Giolito, who did have his best and longest outing last night.

    Beyond him, you would think that the trade prospects for more of the minor-league arms just went up, as they’re blocked. Cole, Jordan, Voth, Lopez, Fedde . . . hello, Andrew Miller?


    10 May 16 at 8:32 am

  18. I had to new post on the Strasburg extension.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 8:51 am

  19. Quick comment on Giolito; Keith law reported that (in response to a question as to why Giolito was struggling) that our esteemed pitching coach Mike Maddux “changed his mechanics.”

    I really, really hope that’s not true. I’d love to get a 2nd source on that. Keith used several F words to describe how dumb he thought that was, if indeed true. and i’d add a few more myself.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 8:53 am

  20. Keith Law didn’t report that Giolito was changing his mechanics. He reported that a scout told him that the scout believed that’s what was going on, which is not the same thing.

    I’ve seen nothing on other sites about this (Nationals Prospects, Sickels’ site, etc) so I tend to view this as unnecessary alarmist [stuff]. What I saw over on TalkNats (and Steve has some kind of sources in the organization; he’s actually broken a couple of stories) was that Giolito has been working hard on his changeup.

    John C.

    10 May 16 at 9:11 am

  21. Giolito:

    Here’s the link: and here’s the direct quote.

    Mark: Have you heard any reports about Giolito this Spring? Tiny sample size, but he’s struggled a bit in AA, and I was wondering if he was focusing on the changeup, and/or if he’d had any dip in velocity.
    Klaw: I heard Maddux tinkered with his delivery, which, if true, would be the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard of a pitching coach doing with a prospect, because Giolito’s delivery did not need tinkering.

    I like Keith Law; he won’t write BS just for clicks and he wouldn’t have posted this unless it was from a source he trusted. And this alarmed me. Because Law is right: if Giolito is the “Best pitching prospect in the game” why would anyone think of messing with his mechanics?? Working on changeup; great. Perfect reason for SSS struggles like he’s had in AA. An altered delivery? That’s malpractice.

    So, like i said; i’d like a 2nd source confirming what Keith Law said.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 16 at 9:41 am

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