Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats on a tear … while being hobbled on the D/L


What a difference a year makes. Last year he was MLB's POTM; this year he's hitting .217 and is now on the D/L. Photo via

What a difference a year makes. Last year he was MLB’s POTM; this year he’s hitting .217 and is now on the D/L. Photo via

Another day, another D/L trip.  The latest is Ryan Zimmerman, whose position is more than ably being filled by Matt Adams, heading to the 10-day d/L with “back soreness” but which we know to be an oblique (which is a notoriously iffy injury, if indeed he has a real injury and this isn’t some sort of paper maneuver to get Adams more ABs.  Yes I’m a cynic).  This a day after starting catcher and $10M “homage to Scott Boras‘ ability to undermine Mike Rizzo‘s plans by repeatedly going over his head to ownership” Matt Wieters goes down with a “hamstring” injury (btw: he looked like a 50-yr old man running to first base; was it any surprise he came up hobbled?)

The Nats, as of 5/13/18, now have 10 guys on the D/L and an 11th suspended.  Only three of them even have a vague return date defined, and one of those is Joe Ross, who is recovering from Tommy John and whose return date is listed as “probably 2018.”  Nine of the 10 guys (not including Read) arguably are part of the “best 25” that our team would field, meaning we’re playing 9 guys out of 25 who should be in AAA.

This number of current players on the D/L, not surprisingly, leads the league and their cumulative totals of number of players, games lost and payroll wasted for the season is at or near the top.


Yet, somehow, during this period the team is on fire.   They’ve won 12 of 14.  They’re 13-7 in their last 20.  Went into the hot Arizona team and crushed them on their turf.

What’s going on?  How is this happening?

Part of this is the particular guys getting hurt; i.e. none of the rotation.  We’re getting a ton of quality starts, guys pitching deep into the games.  Under-rated at the time signing Jeremy Hellickson took a perfect game into the 7th.  That’s the definition of “found gold” for a 5th starter.   Five of the top Eight season-to-date guys by bWAR are the 5 rotation members.

But for the most part it has been part-time players stepping up big time.

  • Pedro Severino in for Wieters (and before that Miguel Montero, 2018’s first “Oblivion” candidate): posting a 98 OPS+ and providing stellar defense behind the plate.
  • Howie Kendrick in for Daniel Murphy?  113 OPS+ thank you very much.  Great signing.
  • Wilmer Difo covering for Anthony Rendon while he missed half the season thus far?  102 OPS+
  • Adams, as previously noted, is crushing the ball right now: 178 OPS+.
  • The hodge-podge of left fielders not named Adams?  well … that’s another story.  Thankfully  we can put most any ole stiff out there and still get production.

I thought this team did amazingly well last  year given its injuries … but now its looking even worse this year.   Yet they’re right where they need to be after a sluggish start.  What I worry about is missing a month of Scherzer, or having Harper  go down ye t again.



16 Responses to 'Nats on a tear … while being hobbled on the D/L'

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  1. and if you’d waited more day you’d have added Reynolds to the list.


    14 May 18 at 8:12 am

  2. Nats get a road sweep against the best team in the NL. Err, formerly the best team in the NL. The team with the best record in the NL now, after basically a quarter of a season . . . is the Braves. Wow. (Weirdly, the Nats also just kept the Dodgers’ season alive. LA got swept at home by the lowly Reds but lost no ground on the Snakes.)

    Also just a reminder that Hellickson and Reynolds are on minor-league contracts and costing essentially nothing. Hellickson has been spectacular. He hasn’t gone deep in games, but he’s been money for five innings every start. Reynolds has a history of being a boom-or-bust guy, with lots of K’s. It will be interesting to see what he can learn from Kevin Long.

    Here’s a cautionary note, though: remember all the crap about how Dusty abused his pitchers? Well, the top four in the NL in cumulative pitch counts are the Nats’ #1-4 starters. The most-used pitcher in baseball is Solis, with 23 appearances. (This would be the same Sammy Solis who has spent his career not being able to stay healthy.) Madson and Kintzler both seem to have been up and down at times already when they’ve been overused.

    So we’ll see. It’s hard to not like the position the Nats are in considering the DL parade. Don’t forget that Taylor also spent some time on the DL, Goodwin has been missing for most of the season, and of course Robles is out for an unknown period.


    14 May 18 at 8:12 am

  3. Yeah I was just thinking that! I mean, is this team any worse with Adams at 1B and Reynolds in LF?

    Todd Boss

    14 May 18 at 8:22 am

  4. Reynolds will be a great bench bat, and an ok platoon guy. Really good pick up by Rizzo, who this year took advantage of the out of favor parts of the market to create solid depth – vets with decent bats and limited but not horrible defense. I’d be happy to see Adams, Kendrick and Reynolds stay on the 25 man roster all season. If Goody comes back healthy, I’d be prepared to ship him out for a decent middle reliever.

    I wonder why Davey isn’t using Suero more.


    14 May 18 at 9:25 am

  5. I would bet on Goodwin being more consistent at the plate over the longer term than Taylor. I don’t think either would have much trade value at the moment, maybe enough to fetch a middle reliever, but not much more.


    14 May 18 at 1:10 pm

  6. Add Wieters to the long-term injured, cue (more) catcher trade rumors. It’s pretty safe to say that those rumors now won’t, or at least shouldn’t, include Robles or Soto.


    18 May 18 at 5:39 am

  7. Holy smokes! Can’t wait to watch Soto get some big league time. Beats adding another minor league re-tread. Now if Murph, Goodwin and Robles can get healthy fast…


    20 May 18 at 12:35 am

  8. Getting ahead of myself here, but if Soto manages to hold his own it could be big trouble for Goodwin and/or MAT. Eaton and Robles will be given their chances once healthy, but if Soto is as dynamic as we all expect (at least in the future) why send him back down? Dare we dream of a Soto, Robles, Harper outfield this season until Eaton is back? I’m tired of MATs lack of offense, Stevenson is not a starter at this level and Sierra can’t go back to AAA fast enough.


    20 May 18 at 7:52 am

  9. Kendrick injury is a huge loss. He covered a lot of holes. Let’s hope a) Difo’s improved patiience has staying power and b) Murphy is on the fast track to returning. We could really use a vintage Harper hot streak too.

    I’m very interested to see Soto. He’s sort of getting the Harper treatment. I hope he hits enough to stay up and force the Nats to make some tough choices.

    Stevenson is not a big leaguer. He may be some day, but now he is not.


    20 May 18 at 9:38 am

  10. Kendrick.. yeah that’s huge. Lost our our purest hitter contact guy in the lineup. Now we need Murphy back in a bad way to glue all these streak hitters together.

    This Soto thing is so exciting though. Carter Kieboom really heating up too. He’s going to be a very good one I think.

    Harper hitting in the 220’s (again)? Really?

    Does Trout ever hit in the 220’s? He gets pitched tough too…. and faces more same handed pitching.

    Marty C

    20 May 18 at 12:11 pm

  11. Marty, two responses: 1) Harper is not as good as Trout, and one of the major reasons for that is that Harper is far less consistent; 2) Harper’s BABIP is less than .200, which ought to improve by something on the order of 110 points.


    20 May 18 at 1:19 pm

  12. One additional point on Harper … he’s getting very, very few pitches to hit. He was leading the majors in fewest pitches in the zone, now he’s 8th.,a

    and (speaking of babip) he’s currently at .193 … about a hundred points off of where he should be. That’s 3rd worst int eh majors.,a

    For all those who claim there’s no such thing as “lineup protection,” … Harper is a clear example of what happens when there’s literally nothing behind a marquee hitter. Why would anyone throw him a pitch to hit?

    Todd Boss

    21 May 18 at 4:35 pm

  13. So wouldn’t BABIP not be expected to improve? If he’s not getting pitches in the zone to hit, but is chasing them anyway and making contact, wouldn’t we expect a lower than average BABIP? I’ve been confused with the praise I’ve heard for him being more aggressive, especially when he was hitting lead off. Sure seems that without any protection he will either hit .200 or go in to a 2016-Esque walk induced slump.


    21 May 18 at 5:15 pm

  14. Well, … that was fun. Best part was watching the kids in the Dominican academy watching Soto’s homerun. Very heartwarming.


    21 May 18 at 10:13 pm

  15. Its interesting to track his BABIP over the years. He’s one of those rare hitters who seem to be able to maintain an above average BABIP.

    For his career he’s at .316 BABIP, so about 26 points higher than a typical average. But its interesting to see where the peaks and valleys sit:
    – 2012: .310
    – 2013: .306
    – 2014: .352
    – 2015: .369
    – 2016: .264
    – 2017: .356
    – 2018: .196

    So … there’s a clear outlier season here. 2016. Which, as we all now know, he played most of the year with a shoulder issue that basically prevented him from hitting practically anything outside … for unknown reasons he played through the pain, even played RF as if there was a girl up in co-ed softball, and his production bottomed out. See this Verducci article for details at the time:

    Otherwise, his BABIP has been stellar. Until 2018. .193 is about 100 points less than a league average, 120 points lower than harper’s career average … and about 160 points lower than his output in 2015/2017 seasons where he was hitting at peak form.

    so yeah … you’d think that his babip would naturally increase.

    Todd Boss

    22 May 18 at 2:39 pm

  16. So, here’s the lineup the Nats rolled out tonight vs San diego: Turner, Harper, Rendon … ok so far, so good. Cleanup == Matt Reynolds, who was a MLFA signing. #5. Our #5 hitter? Pedro Severino. 6th soto, who has about 10 minutes above a-ball, then Difo/Taylor 7th/8th, about where you’d expect them to bat even in the best of situations.

    That’s a pretty weak lineup. With very little help for Harper. Soto is exciting yes … but he can’t be the savior.

    Todd Boss

    22 May 18 at 9:49 pm

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