Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats All-Star review: 2018 and years past




Here’s my annual Nationals All Star selection post.

Fun Trivia:

  • All-time leader in Nats all-star appearances: Harper with 6 appearances.  Scherzer also has been named 6 times but some pre-dated his time here.
  • All-time leader in All-Star Game starts: Also Harper, getting his 5th start.
  • Total number of Starters in the history of the Franchise: Now is 10; Harper 5 times, Scherzer twice, and one each for Soriano, Murphy, Zimmerman.
  • Most all-star players named in a single year: 5 in both 2016 and 2017.
  • Least all-star game players named in a single year: 1 in multiple years during the “dark years” of 2006 through 2011.

(* == All-Star game starter)



  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer*, Sean Doolittle
  • Possible Snubs: Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon
  • Narrative: For the home-town All Star Game, Harper gets the starting nod from the fans despite his abhorrent season at the plate (his slash line on 7/8/18: .219/.371/.475).  However, by making the ASG, Harper now keeps his promise to participate in the Home Run Derby one last time before hitting free agency.   There’s no real “snubs” on this Nationals team; The #2 player on the team in terms of seasonal bWAR is Trea Turner but he’s not exactly having a head-turning season.  He was named to the “last 5 ballot” but was a huge long-shot to make it (update; he didn’t: the very deserving Jesus Aguilar did).  Anthony Rendon is having his typical under-rated season and got no love from the voters over the more famous Nolan Arenado (a common refrain when it comes to Gold Gloves/Silver Sluggers too).  None of our starters besides Scherzer are really deserving; Stephen Strasburg was having a decent but not spectacular season but missed a month and is on the D/L.  Nor is any of the bullpen past Doolittle.  Its an odd-season where a team-wide malaise is contributing to the team hovering at .500 at the All Star Break.  Only Juan Soto really is deserving … but he was never going to make the ASG (not when recent more spectacular rookies failed to make it) and thanks to his missing all of April and most of May he wasn’t on any ballots and may struggle to win the RoY over guys who have played longer this season.  Scherzer is named to the team on 7/8/18 was named the  NL starter for the 2nd year running on 7/16/18.



  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Daniel Murphy*, Ryan Zimmerman*, Max Scherzer*, Stephen Strasburg
  • Snubs: Anthony Rendon, Gio Gonzalez
  • Narrative: For the second  year in a row, the Nats are well and properly represented in the All Star Game.  We have three starters named in the field, including Zimmerman who beats out a slew of 1B sluggers in the NL to not only make the team but get his first start.  Its also likely i’ll be editing this post and adding in Scherzer as an additional starter; he is the obvious choice to start the game for the NL given his first half production (7/10/17 update: yes indeed we did).  Rendon is having a very quiet solid season and is in the “last 5” popular vote, but he seems unlikely to win given that last year’s MVP Kris Bryant is also in the voting (Update: neither guy got in).  Gonzalez misses out despite having a better first half than Strasburg by nearly any statistic; he’s having a career year but seems unlikely to get rewarded with his 3rd ASG appearance.  There’s no other real snub from our 2017 team; certainly there’s nobody in the bullpen meriting a spot, and Trea Turner‘s torrid 2016 2nd half did not translate into the 2017 season (not to mention, he’s had two separate D/L trips).  Once again i’m slightly perturbed that Harper continues to refuse to participate in the HR derby; why the reticence?  Its a fun event that is quickly becoming better than the actual game itself and practically every other slugger is participating.  Is he afraid to lose?  On a larger scale, i’m really happy to see (finally) that deserving rookies are named: Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are both named and are both on the inside track for ROY awards; too many times in the past we see deserving rookies unnamed.  On July 10th, the fourth Nat starter was named: Scherzer got the starting pitcher nod, a first for the Nats.  August Update: Rendon’s omission is looking even more ridiculous; he’s top 5 in the league in bWAR.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos, Max Scherzer (named as replacement for Strasburg on 7/8/16),
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaTanner Roark
  • Narrative: The four obvious candidates from the Nats this year were all initially correctly selected, though voting shenanigans out of Chicago elected Ben Zobrist over Daniel Murphy by a scant 500 votes.   I thought perhaps Strasburg would have a chance to start the game, given his 12-0 record, but it seems the team pre-empted any such thought when Scherzer’s naming occurred.  For the first time writing this post, I can’t really name any “snubs” and the team has (finally?) earned the proper respect it deserves in terms of naming its players properly.  Espinosa had a week for the ages just prior to the end of voting but really stood little chance of selection in the grand scheme of things.  He’s not really a “snub” but is worthy of mention based on his resurgent year.  At the break, Espinosa ranked 3rd in NL fWAR but 7th or 8th in bWAR thanks to differing defensive value metrics, so maybe/maybe not on him being a “snub.”  As pointed out in the comments, even I missed the sneaky good season Roark is having; he’s 12th in the NL in bWAR at the break and 9th in fWAR but was left off in favor of any number of starters that stand below him in value rankings.  Unfortunately for fans (and for Harper’s “Make Baseball Fun again” campaign, he opted to skip the Home Run Derby again.  I guess its kind of like the NBA superstars skipping the dunk contest; the Union should really do a better job of helping out in this regard.  The new format is fantastic and makes the event watchable again; is it ego keeping him from getting beat by someone like Giancarlo Stanton?


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer
  • Possible Snubs: Yunel Escobar, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Harper not only made it in as a starter for the 2nd time, he led the NL in votes, setting a MLB record for total votes received.  This is no surprise; Harper’s easily in the MVP lead for the NL thanks to his amazing first half (his split at the half-way point of the season: .347/.474/.722 with 25 homers and an astounding 225 OPS+).  I guess he won’t be earning the “Most overrated player” award next year.  That Harper is electing to skip the Home run derby in a disappointment; his father is nursing an arm injury can cannot throw to him in the event.  In a weird year for the Nats, the only other regular worth mentioning is newly acquired Escobar, who is hitting above .300 and filling in ably at multiple positions that, prior to this year, he had never played.  Storen is having another excellent regular season … but at a time when mandatory members from each team often leads to other closers being selected (there are 5 NL closers and 7 AL relievers), the odds of him making the All-Star team were always going to be slim.  Scherzer deservedly makes the team and probably would have been the NL starter; he’s got sub 2.00 ERA and FIP and leads all NL pitchers in WAR at the mid-way point of the season.  But his turn came up in the final game of the first half, making him ineligible for the game and forcing his replacement on the roster.

As a side note, the 2015 All-Star game will go down as the “Ballot-Gate” game thanks to MLB’s short-sighted plan to allow 30+ online ballots per email address.  This led to severe “ballot stuffing” by the Kansas City Royals fans, led to MLB  having to eliminate 60 million+ fraudulent ballots, but still led to several Royals being elected starters over more deserving candidates.



  • Nationals All-Star representative: Jordan Zimmermann (Update post-publishing: Zimmermann strained a bicep, and had to withdraw from the ASG.  For a bit it looked like the Nats wouldn’t even have a representative, until Tyler Clippard was named on 7/13/14).
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen
  • Narrative: Zimmermann’s been the best SP on the best pitching staff in the majors this year, and thus earns his spot.  I find it somewhat odd that a first place team (or near to it) gets just one representative on the team (as discussed above).  Rendon tried to make the team via the “last man in” voting, but historically Nationals have not fared well in this competition (especially when better known players from large markets are in the competition, aka Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs), and indeed Rendon finished 4th in the last-man voting.  LaRoche is having a very good season, almost single handedly carrying the Nats offense while major parts were out injured, but he’s never going to beat out the slew of great NL first basemen (Joey Votto couldn’t even get into this game).  Soriano has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any closer in the game; at the time of this writing he has a 1.03 ERA and a .829 whip; those are Dennis Eckersley numbers.  But, the farce that is the all-star game selection criteria (having to select one player from each team) means that teams need a representative, and deserving guys like Soriano get squeezed.  Then, Soriano indignantly said he wouldn’t even go if named as a replacement … likely leading to Clippard’s replacement selection.  The same goes for non-closer Storen, who sports a sub 2.00 ERA on the year.  Advanced stats columnists (Keith Law) also think that Stephen Strasburg is a snub but I’m not entirely sure: he may lead the NL in K’s right now and have far better advanced numbers than “traditional,” but its hard to make an argument that a guy with a 7-6 record and a 3.50+ ERA is all-star worthy.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper*, Jordan Zimmermann
  • Snubs: Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond
  • Narrative: Harper comes in 3rd in the NL outfielder voting, ahead of some big-time names, to become only the second Nationals position player elected as an All-Star starter.  He was 4th in the final pre-selection vote, so a big last minute push got him the starter spot.   Harper also becomes the first National to participate in the Home Run Derby.   Zimmermann was 12-3 heading into the game and was on mid-season Cy Young short lists in July in a breakout season.  Strasburg’s advanced stats are all better than Zimmermann’s, but his W/L record (4-6 as the ASG) means he’s not an all-star.  It also probably doesn’t help that he missed a few weeks.  Desmond loses out to Troy TulowitzkiEverth Cabrera and Jean Segura.  Tulowitzki was having a very solid year and was a deserving elected starter, while Cabrera and Segura are both having breakout seasons.  Desmond was on the “Final vote” roster, but my vote (and most others’ I’m guessing) would be for Yasiel Puig there ([Editor Update: Desmond and Puig lost out to Freddie Freeman: I still wished that Puig finds a way onto the roster but ultimately he did not and I believe the ASG was diminished because of it).   Gio GonzalezRyan Zimmerman, and Rafael Soriano are all having solid but unspectacular years and miss out behind those having great seasons.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Stephen StrasburgGio GonzalezIan Desmond, Bryce Harper
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRocheCraig Stammen
  • Narrative: The two SPs Strasburg and Gonzalez were the obvious candidates, and my personal prediction was that they’d be the only two candidates selected.  Gonzalez’ first half was a prelude to his 21-win, 3rd place Cy Young season.  The inclusion of Desmond is a surprise, but also a testament to how far he’s come as a player in 2012.  Harper was a last-minute injury replacement, but had earned his spot by virtue of his fast start as one of the youngest players in the league.  Of the “snubs,” LaRoche has had a fantastic come back season in 2012 but fared little shot against better, more well-known NL first basemen.  Stammen was our best bullpen arm, but like LaRoche fared little chance of getting selected during a year when the Nats had two deserving pitchers selected.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Tyler Clippard
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaMichael MorseDrew StorenJordan Zimmermann
  • Narrative: While Clippard was (arguably) the Nats best and most important reliever, I think Zimmermann was a more rightful choice.  He was 10th in the league in ERA at the time of the selections and has put in a series of dominant performances.  Meanwhile Espinosa was on pace for a 28-homer season and almost a certain Rookie-of-the-Year award (though a precipitous fall-off in the 2nd half cost him any realistic shot at the ROY), and perhaps both players are just too young to be known around the league.  Lastly Morse is certainly known and he merited a spot in the “last man in” vote sponsored by MLB (though he fared little chance against popular players in this last-man-in voting).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Matt Capps
  • Possible Snubs: Adam DunnJosh WillinghamRyan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg
  • Narrative: Capps was clearly deserving, having a breakout season as a closer after his off-season non-tender from the Pirates.  The 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham all had dominant offensive seasons as the team improved markedly from its 103-loss season.  But perhaps the surprise non-inclusion was Strasburg, who despite only having a few starts as of the all-star break was already the talk of baseball.  I think MLB missed a great PR opportunity to name him to the team to give him the exposure that the rest of the national media expected.  But in the end, Capps was a deserving candidate and I can’t argue that our hitters did anything special enough to merit inclusion.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Ryan Zimmerman
  • Possible Snubs: Adam Dunn
  • Narrative: The addition of Dunn and Willingham to the lineup gave Zimmerman the protection he never had, and he produced with his career-best season.  His first and deserved all-star appearance en-route to a 33 homer season.  Dunn continued his monster homer totals with little all-star recognition.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Cristian Guzman
  • Possible Snubs: Jon Rauch
  • Narrative: The first of two “hitting rock-bottom” seasons for the team; no one really merited selection.  Zimmerman was coming off of hamate-bone surgery in November 2007 and the team was more or less awful across the board.  Rauch performed ably after Cordero went down with season-ending (and basically career-ending) shoulder surgery.   Guzman’s selection a great example of why one-per-team rules don’t make any sense.  Guzman ended up playing far longer than he deserved in the game itself by virtue of the 15-inning affair.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Dmitri Young
  • Possible Snubs: Ryan Zimmerman, Shawn Hill (though I wouldn’t argue for either)
  • Narrative: Young gets a deserved all-star appearance en route to comeback player of the year.  Zimmerman played a full season but didn’t dominate.  Our 2007 staff gave starts to 13 different players, most of whom were out of the league within the next year or two.  Not a good team.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Alfonso Soriano*
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonRyan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero
  • Narrative: Soriano made the team as an elected starter, the first time the Nats have had such an honor.  Our pitching staff took massive steps backwards and no starter came even close to meriting a spot.  Cordero was good but not lights out as he had been in 2005.  Soriano’s 40-40 season is a poster child for “contract year” production and he has failed to come close to such production since.  The team was poor and getting worse.  Johnson had a career year but got overshadowed by bigger, better first basemen in the league (a recurring theme for our first basemen over the years).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Livan HernandezChad Cordero
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonJohn Patterson.
  • Narrative: The Nats went into the All Star break surprisingly in first place, having run to a 50-31 record by the halfway point.  Should a first place team have gotten more than just two representatives?  Perhaps.  But the team was filled with non-stars and played far over its head to go 50-31 (as evidenced by the reverse 31-50 record the rest of the way).

53 Responses to 'Nats All-Star review: 2018 and years past'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Nats All-Star review: 2018 and years past'.

  1. I’ll admit that my first thought of Bryce in the HR Derby was that it wasn’t a good thing. I’m coming around to a more positive view, though. First and foremost, his Dad is his swing coach; always has been, always will be. He’ll spend all day hitting with and against his Dad. If anyone can get Bryce straightened out, it’s Ron Harper. (Also, if anyone can kick Bryce in the butt about all the other stuff and make it hurt, it’s Ron Harper.)

    My second hope is that Bryce has some success on Monday and Tuesday night, and that this success helps him get his swagger back. There is nothing that could help the Nats more in the second half than there is Bryce with mojo.


    16 Jul 18 at 12:47 pm

  2. I had been thinking, and heard FP say the same thing a while ago, what if the Derby fixes Harper instead of messing him up like so many other participants claim? That’s what I’m holding out hope for.

    Random trade thought: would anyone consider Robles for Duffy and Sal Perez from KC? They both have big salaries and may have peaked, but both also have 3 more years under contract. Duffy could get a boost in the NL and be a like for like replacement for Gio right? Ultimately I’m talking myself out of it because I think KC would want more and because Robles is too high end for guys on the downward trend.


    16 Jul 18 at 8:08 pm

  3. MG – I would not trade Robles for those guys. I don’t think either is currently an above average player. Plus, given the failings of this year’s team, I am looking to the future and Robles has become almost untradeable for me. Along with Soto, Turner, Eaton, maybe Rendon, who I’d like to see extended.

    If they were going to trade Robles, it would have to be in a package for a pitching stud like de Grom. I think it’s very unlikely the Nats and Mets would trade together, but it would have to look like that for me.


    16 Jul 18 at 8:46 pm

  4. The Swing is fixed. The Swagger is back. Baseball is fun again for the DC Homer Ninja!

    Who says the Home Run Derby doesn’t matter?

    Now go crush Freddie Freeman again on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!


    17 Jul 18 at 7:50 am

  5. MG, I looked at Duffy in the offseason as someone who might be on the Nats’ radar, but I just couldn’t get excited about him. He has a 4.59 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. I just don’t see it. Perez is struggling even worse. His .259 OBP is right there with Sevy’s .256. Ouch. If either of those guys were going better, the longer commitment would be great, but right now, it looks like bad news.

    Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m sorta intrigued by Matt Harvey, if they could get him for a bag of balls, and if Murph would endorse his presence in the clubhouse.


    17 Jul 18 at 8:11 am

  6. I’m going to be really pissed if the Nats trade any of their top guys frankly. Robles, Kieboom, Garcia, Crowe; all these guys are going to be vital to this team as it transitions away from the current set of veterans. It’d be a massive short term trade at the expense of the longer term.

    Just to cover for departing FAs Harper, Murphy, Madsen, Kelley, Wieters, Adams, Reynolds we’re going to need all their top prospects moving up in short order.

    Todd Boss

    17 Jul 18 at 1:37 pm

  7. My preference would be to hold onto the major young assets unless a super deal (Snell) presents itself. I’d probably give up Robles for Snell. I’m also intrigued by Skaggs and Heaney, but not quite the same level of intrigue. The Halos don’t particularly need OFs, either, unless they’re plannning for Trout’s departure. Could we get one of those lefties for Garcia plus some arms, like Voth and Rodriguez? Or even Fedde?

    I’m not sure how other teams value Crowe. I’m not sure how I value Crowe. While his progress this year has been wonderful, considering how thin the middle of the farm is on starting pitching, he hasn’t been dominant, as Luke Erickson keeps pointing out. He’s also had a TJ and will turn 24 in September. I’m not hating on him, just explaining why I’m not uber-attached to him.

    I’m more attached to Kieboom, as I think he’s vital to the near future, at either 2B or 3B. I know some would say it’s nuts, but I’d probably trade Robles before I’d part with Kieboom.


    17 Jul 18 at 4:03 pm

  8. My under-the-radar pitching trade targets would be Kyle Gibson of the Twins or Mike Fiers of the Tigers. Both are controlled through ’19 so would cost a little more in trade terms than a rental.


    17 Jul 18 at 4:04 pm

  9. Robles for Snell is at least the kind of trade I’d be ok with. I think if they get an upper quality pitcher with at least 4 years of control left you’d have to think hard.

    I’m not in sell mode unless they keep tanking. I just think they have to be realistic that a lot has gone wrong this year, and be very reluctant to trade a core guy for the next run.

    Crowe, even Garcia, I’m much more open to trading. Just not for a 2018 rental only. That should only be done for the kind of guys they traded for Herrera. Fiers could be an ok get and cheap. Drew Ward and Baez, maybe. I’d take a flier on that kind of thing. Gibson is a little better and more costly, presumably. It would depend on the cost


    17 Jul 18 at 7:55 pm

  10. Btw, in Fangraphs trade value series, Robles is 44th, and Snell is 38th so it isn’t a crazy idea.


    17 Jul 18 at 8:02 pm

  11. Sorry, 35th


    17 Jul 18 at 8:03 pm

  12. I’d also consider a run at Stroman. He’s struggled but I think his stuff is still good and a change of scenery could do a lot. I’d consider a Crowe/Garcia package for him.


    17 Jul 18 at 8:10 pm

  13. I thought about Stroman, and Fulmer as well, who would probably take a bigger package than Stroman.

    Roark would have one more start before they have to decide, . . . if they haven’t already. I don’t have any faith in Fedde as a viable option for the stretch run this year. I have no idea when Ross will be back, or if he’ll be useful for more than three or four innings. So . . . I think they’ll add a starter. What quality will remain to be seen.


    17 Jul 18 at 8:57 pm

  14. Machado deal finally done. Better him to the Dodgers than to Philly. Honestly, the O’s didn’t get much, just one guy in the lower part of the top 100 at #84. The rest are barely in the top 30 of the Dodger organization. Sure hope this will help quiet the folks who think the Nats could get a couple of top-50 prospects for Bryce.


    18 Jul 18 at 8:32 pm

  15. I like the deal from the O’s perspective. No big names really, but I bet at least contribute in the majors at some point. And they are not lowA guys either


    18 Jul 18 at 10:47 pm

  16. I don’t think the O’s got any dogs in the trade, but they didn’t get Gleyber Torres, either. More urgently, they didn’t get a top-tier starting pitching prospect or two, which is what they desperately needed. Not that I care a lick about the O’s . . .

    I’m now curious about whether the Mets are smart enough to trade deGrom, who could bring a phenomenal return. But I don’t think they’re smart enough to do it. They fear truly conceding the town to the Yankees for a couple of years, even though it’s going to happen anyway.


    19 Jul 18 at 8:09 am

  17. What do the Nats need to do in the second half? If they just play up to their Pythagorean number from the first half, which “should” have been .531, they would go 35-31 in the second half and win 83. If they were to play up to 2017’s actual winning percentage, .599, they would go 40-26, win 88 overall, and likely make the playoffs. Not sure 83 wins gets them there, even with the regression I expect from the Phils and Braves. The difference of five wins doesn’t seem huge, but it may end up that way. So they can’t keep punting every Roark start!


    19 Jul 18 at 8:15 am

  18. GMs are smarter these days; they’re not going to give up their #1 prospect for half a season anymore. All Baltimore needed to do was beat the potential of a supp-1st round pick and they “won” the trade. I’d argue that immediately getting a top 100 prospect of any kind qualifies … and then getting more prospects on top of that makes it worthwhile even if they’re not as good. Especially a team like Baltimore who has seen very little from its non-top5 overall 1st rounders over the last 10-15 years…

    Todd Boss

    19 Jul 18 at 8:37 am

  19. Did they get more than they would have gotten from a supp. pick? Heck yeah. Did they get as much as they would have gotten if they had traded him in the offseason? Heck no. Did they do much to change the spiraling trajectory of the franchise? No. Diaz is a corner OF with little HR power (except in the Futures Game), sort of a high-floor/low-ceiling guy. Kremer is the key to how well Balto does with the deal, though, as they’re beyond desperate for starters.

    I care not a lick about the sinking, stinkin’ O’s, though. I’m just glad Manny didn’t go to the Phils. I’ll worry about the Dodgers when/if we see them in the playoffs.


    19 Jul 18 at 9:50 am

  20. For the Nats’ record to improve substantially in the 2nd half, I think two of the following three players need to play roughly the same as the 2017 versions of themselves (holding everything else – other players’ performance – constant): (1) Strasburg, (2) Harper, (3) Murphy. That’s roughly the order I would list them in terms of “likelihood of playing like 2017.” Strasburg’s MO for about the last four years is that he dominates when healthy. If he’s healthy for the last 10 weeks of the season, he should dominate. I have very little confidence in Murphy based on what I’ve seen. His swing looks better and he still has elite contact skills, but he has NO POWER (Difo’s 2018 ISO is 15 points higher than Murphy’s). Unless he regains power (and I hope he does, though I do not expect it – at least not in 2018), he’s unplayable at either 2nd (poor defense) or 1st (an Adams/Reynolds/Zim platoon would obviously be better). How long do you keep playing him in the hope that his power will return? If Kendrick weren’t hurt, the answer would be different.

    Bryce is the enigma. Since his slump bottomed out a few weeks ago, he’s produced in fits and starts. His premier patience returns for a few games and then he’ll get drive a few good pitches and start chasing again, only for the Ks to return. He needs to be a consistent monster for the Nats to win games in bunches.

    A number of other things could change and affect how the season plays out, but these are the three keys in my opinion.


    19 Jul 18 at 11:42 am

  21. Derek — I generally agree with your list but would add Roark. The Nats are 5-15 in games in which he has pitched, 5-14 in games he has started. That’s a worse percentage than the 4-8 they’ve gone in games not started by Max/Stras/Gio/Helly. Those four collectively are 13 games over .500 in their starts. Pretty bluntly, if they make a trade for a starter, it is to replace Roark. Does he even get another start? He’s gone from a valued, low-cost piece of the puzzle to a non-tender candidate.

    I have no idea what to do with Murph other than play him and cross your fingers. Actually, I do know what to do, but it would never happen — Reynolds at 3B and Rendon at 2B, with Murph on the bench or the DL.

    I’m curious/concerned about Reynolds’s fate with Zim’s curiously rapid return. Will they DFA Reynolds? Try to trade him? DFA Goodwin? Include Goodwin or Taylor in a quick trade for a starter? (If I were Goodwin, I’d start feeling a twinge in my hamstring!) I’m also concerned that they will start Zim against RHP and take away ABs from Adams. Until Zim proves that he’s ’17 Zim, he’s as much a liability as Murph.


    19 Jul 18 at 12:37 pm

  22. 2nd half for the team: Well, right now they’re punting basically every Roark start, every other Gio start, every Fedde start, every Rodriguez start and the only Voth start they’re likely to deal with if they can help it. So the odds seem stacked against them.

    Do they trade for an arm? Only if that arm can slide into Gio’s slot next year.

    Todd Boss

    19 Jul 18 at 12:47 pm

  23. It’s not just Gio. The contracts for both him and Helly will be up. Roark no longer looks viable and may be non-tendered or traded. Ross should be back but will be innings-limited. Have we seen enough to think that Fedde is an MLB starter? (I haven’t.) I don’t consider Rodriguez or Voth as viable options. So . . . the only sure things are Max and Stras. So yes, if they trade for a starter, another controllable year or two would be very nice to have.


    19 Jul 18 at 1:15 pm

  24. I think this first series is crucial. If they sweep, I’ll be bullish on a turnaround. if they go 2-1, meh but still ok. if they go 1-2 or worse, I will conclude they’re out.


    19 Jul 18 at 1:33 pm

  25. Two out of three would be enough to get them pointed in the right direction. A sweep would do more to send a message. More than the record, though, I want to see two things: 1) a sense of urgency, and 2) better baseball, both physically and mentally. Bad baseball is a sign of a lack of focus. If being 5.5 games back can’t get them focused and playing with urgency, then nothing will.

    In looking at the roster, I think it’s likely to be a Goodwin DFA today, as Zim has to get back on both the 40-man and the 25-man. I just don’t see how they can let go of Reynolds and his bat right now. Goodwin has struggled so much this year that he may go unclaimed, but I wouldn’t count on it.


    20 Jul 18 at 7:42 am

  26. Is Goodwin out of options?

    Given how many LH bats the Nats have, there’s no reason to have Goodwin AND MAT on the bench. So I agree he’s the first to go. At the same time, Zimmerman and Reynolds are redundant too. I’d be tempted to cut bait on Reynolds based on the theory that we’ve already gotten more out of him in a short period of time than could reasonably be expected. He’s a ~100 WRC+ hitter going forward, no ifs ands or buts, and he’s far better at 1B than anywhere else. Goodwin is not that good of a hitter (though I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up in the ~95 WRC+ range) with better speed and the ability to play 3 OF spots at least competently. But – who do I want at the plate in a PH situation? The answer is pretty clearly Reynolds.


    20 Jul 18 at 10:43 am

  27. By my count, Goodwin was optioned in ’15, ’16, and ’17, so he’s out of options unless I’m missing something.

    In 10 plate appearances as a PH this season, Reynolds has as many hits (3) and Goodwin (1) and Taylor (2) do combined across 45 PH plate appearances. Reynolds has also drawn three walks, for a PH OBP of a cool .600. SSS I know, but Goodwin has been awful in the role, with only one hit and four walks in 32 tries. Goodwin’s overall K rate this season is 32.9%. He’s really struggling.

    I was very encouraged by what Goodwin did last season, but right now — and particularly until they find out if ’17 Zim is back or if he’s still ’18 Zim — I’d hang onto Reynolds.


    20 Jul 18 at 11:18 am

  28. Optioned Gott and Suero, activated Stras and Zim. There apparently was a 40-man slot open from the Collins DFA. For now, they have a six-man bench and a six-man bullpen. Something will have to give when Doo is ready. Maybe Goody can feel a twinge in his hamstring by then.

    VERY glad to see that they’re starting Adams tonight over Zim.


    20 Jul 18 at 4:04 pm

  29. I’m close to calling it. I’ll give it another week, but I am right on the brink of packing it in for the year.


    21 Jul 18 at 8:38 am

  30. Should we just pray that they get rained out on Saturday and Sunday? The offense showed a little spark on Friday, but the pitching didn’t do enough to give them a chance, which I guess is sorta what Max told Stras.

    At least Adams started, and delivered. I have no confidence that Zim is ready after just two rehab games.


    21 Jul 18 at 1:37 pm

  31. Coming back to the conversation after a weekend away:
    – Goodwin trade: glad to get something instead of the nothing they would have gotten a day later when they DFA’d him and he got picked up on the waiver wire for nothing.
    – Zimmerman; not happy with the treatment of him all year. Undisclosed injury in spring, lack of rehab games. I mean WTF. Yeah i get that he’s the elder statesman in the clubhouse … but he’s done less than nothing this year to earn that respect.
    – Strasburg/Scherzer conversation; just so typically dumb that it made headlines. really.

    You want to see something amazing? Here’s the slashlines for Adams and Reynolds on the year:
    – Adams: .286/.360/.568
    – Reynolds: .288/.358/.568

    They’re hitting almost identically to each other.

    I think they’re done. 49-49 now, to get to 90 wins in the remaining 64 games they’ll have to go 41-23. 16 of those 64 games are against Atlanta and Philly, who they’re going to struggle to go .500 against (they’re currently 4-6 versus Philly and 5-7 versus Atl on the season). And on top of that, another 23 games remaining are against teams like Milwaukee, Cubs, Colorado and StL, all of whom are better than the Nats. This just smells like a complete disaster of a season brewing.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 18 at 11:45 am

  32. From Boz’s chat today:

    The Phils started 25-16. Since then 30-27, which is probably more like who they are. And they’ve been relatively healthy. Also, the Phils’ worst “slump” is 1-7, which isn’t even a slump. Everybody, except the occasional great team, has a slump sometime. That means theirs is coming. The better question is: Do the Nats have ANOTHER slump in them? That would be fatal.

    The Braves started 28-17 and have been 25-26 since. In fact, they might be swooning a touch right now at 10-14.


    23 Jul 18 at 2:45 pm

  33. The Nats are catching the Brewers on a down-tick, then have MIA, NYM, and CIN. This truly is the now-or-never stretch to get well. The surging Dodgers have three in Philly then four in ATL. It could be a very good week for the Nats . . . or a fatal one . . .


    23 Jul 18 at 2:48 pm

  34. I have NO idea why they felt the need to activate Zim right now, after just two rehab games, putting them in immediate bullpen distress. Zim seems like a third wheel to the Adams/Reynolds show. I know Zim was great for much of ’17, but this is ’18, and he’s been a shell of himself thus far. This is no time to be demonstrating “loyalty.” It’s the time to be putting your best nine on the field.

    Goodwin was probably a goner either way, though. He has one pinch hit all season. He’s lost without Dusty as his personal coach.

    The news on Doolittle is a blow. The Herrera deal is looking very good now . . . if he can get back his KC mojo. Glover is on the horizon, although it’s unclear who he would replace, unless Solis gets shuttled back to Syracuse, or they decide the warranty is running out on Miller.


    23 Jul 18 at 2:54 pm

  35. I’m not with you guys on this Zim stuff. I view it as similar to the DMart criticism. It’s probably correct, but ultimately not important to the team’s success.

    Pitching, then pitching, then Harper. followed by pitching.


    23 Jul 18 at 4:26 pm

  36. Honestly, I have no idea what to think about the Zim situation. No one seems to have been up front about it at any point. My point right now is more along the lines of don’t mess up a good platoon with a guy who probably is not ready. Adams/Reynolds right now are giving the Nats very close to Peak Zim, based on Zim ’17:

    Zim ’17: .303/.358/.573
    Adams: .286/.360/.568
    Reynolds: .288/.358/.568

    For OBP/SLG, that’s about as close as you can get. The one more likely to revert some is Reynolds, and it would be good if Zim is ready to step in when/if that happens. But we’ve got no reason to think that Zim is ready to step in at midseason form, particularly after just TWO rehab games.

    In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s plenty of other things to fix. And yes pitching (Tanner) and pitching (Gio) are #s 1 and 1A. Got my fingers crossed that Bryce is starting to rally. His body language certainly is better.


    23 Jul 18 at 7:01 pm

  37. So Martinez ignores that Adams hits .444 against Chacin and starts Zim, batting him clean-up no less, where he posts an 0-fer. Zim also misplays a ball that should have been the inning-ending out into a three-run “triple.” Meanwhile, the offense produces nothing against a soft-tosser, and four of the five guys Gio walks manage to score. What else is new? Sigh.

    It almost feels like the Nats need to acquire two starters instead of just the one to replace Roark. That’s a hard conclusion to reach, as Gio when he’s good is one of the top 20 or so pitchers in baseball. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen “Gio when he’s good,” and time is getting short.

    Can’t give up with the Nats only six back and the teams ahead of them scuffling. But goodness, this has been a painful season to stomach, other than Soto and Max. I’m not “hating” on Martinez for what’s happening, but the rookie manager does seen at a loss with what to do right now. And Dusty was just as prone to go with the vets, although it didn’t take him long to move Zim well down in the order, until Zim started to hit.


    24 Jul 18 at 7:57 am

  38. I’m with you, KW on Zim. The best Nats lineup in 2018 includes a healthy and productive Zim. Reynolds is simply not in Zim’s class as a hitter. Frankly, neither is Adams, but a) Adams crushes righteys, which Zim does not, and b) Adams has played very well for long stretches THIS YEAR, whereas Zim has not.

    Why, for the love of god, was Zim activated after TWO rehab games, only to sit all weekend (I suspect he would have played on Saturday against a lefty starter had it not been rained out) and then start Monday against a righty? His misplay on the Yelich grounder didn’t cause the Nats to lose, but it removed any chance of a comeback. Maybe the guy who hasn’t played in ten weeks needed more than two games to practice taking grounders? I’m sure the thinking – coming from Zim – is that he’s healthy and he doesn’t want to waste his bullets in the minors. I understand that, but he has hardly played all year and when he has, he hasn’t played well. And there’s so little benefit to rushing him back given that Reynolds/Adams have been productive.

    It’s poor decisionmaking. Some of it rests on Martinez, but not all of it. I don’t think it’s Martinez who’s deciding how many rehab games Zim needs, for example.


    24 Jul 18 at 10:16 am

  39. Slight correction to my rant — Zim actually had three MiLB rehab games, not that it changes much.

    I don’t want to come across as “hating” on Zim or Martinez, but the decision to use him (and apparently saying he’s going to start the next two as well?) during a now-or-never stretch for the Nats is just mind-blowing. This is something you do if you’re 10 games up, not when things are hanging in the balance. Adams is slashing .319/.385/.532 in July. You bench that in favor of .210/.277/.395? Plus you take the hot Rendon out of clean-up to do it?

    I don’t know where the “blame” rests. Rizzo certainly has some culpability as well. Zim is a baseball-savvy guy and shouldn’t be trying to force the issue, either.

    I’ll add here that I’m starting to buy that the “new” Matt Adams is legit, a Kevin Long re-creation in the mold of Murphy and Granderson. I hope the Nats make an effort to extend him, and that the current handling of things doesn’t make him reluctant to stick around.


    24 Jul 18 at 11:15 am

  40. I agree on Adams, and I don’t think it should be too expensive to extend him for a couple of years either.

    The optics on Zim look terrible and will foment the criticisms. WHile I don’t disagree with points made, it isn’t the main problem.

    The bigger issue to me is that with each passing day, this year looks lost and retooling for next year should become a bigger priority. That could mean many things, but it almost certainly doesn’t mean trading future assets for rentals. I can accept no deals, but would be hard pressed to support a rental acquisition.


    24 Jul 18 at 1:08 pm

  41. The Marlins lead the Braves 9-3 as I write, and the Bravos will be facing the Dodgers next. The Phils have two more with the Dodgers. If the Nats take care of business tonight, they could be five out behind two teams that are trying to figure out how to deal with struggles.

    My point is that there’s no reason to throw in the towel. I’m also not part of the posse out to hang Martinez and/or Rizzo. It’s not their fault that Gio and Roark have fallen off a cliff. However, they can’t keep making heart-over-head decisions like the one on Zim. They need to make similar tough decisions on Roark, and maybe on Gio as well. As I see it, Roark needs to be effective tomorrow night. Otherwise, get another starter and stick Roark in the back of the ‘pen, or see if you can get a bag of balls for him. If the opportunity presents, I’d think about replacing Gio as well.

    No, I’m not giving up Robles/Kieboom/Garcia, unless they get some miracle offer like Snell. I just want a serviceable Kyle Gibson/Mike Fiers type, neither of whom should cost a top prospect. Matt Harvey got bombed for eight runs in his last start, so I’m out on him.


    24 Jul 18 at 2:16 pm

  42. While I might be inclined to sell, I can completely accept the argument that they are close enough, and potentially talented enough, to turn it around, and so stand pat. I might even add that for two of their main selling chips (Madson and Herrera), the market is flush with other options and it isn’t currently returning good value anyway.

    I am even ok with a trade of future assets for a controllable piece that fits their roster. just don’t want to waste any value on a rental. 2018 outlook is too sketchy


    24 Jul 18 at 3:42 pm

  43. I’m giving up on the season. Just too many warning signs at this point. I just don’t think they have it. One bad start after another, sloppy play, lazy base running, lack of hitting.

    Its 2015 all over again.

    Todd Boss

    24 Jul 18 at 4:18 pm

  44. I’ll agree that the team body language right now isn’t good. I’ll also agree that they’re sort of in standings limbo. If they’re 8+ games out by this time next week, it probably is time to considering punting. However, if they’re only 3.5 out, we’re all going to be screaming for them to get another starting pitcher and go for it. Or at least I will be. More likely, they’ll be between 4 to 6 games back and have a tough call to make. I think they’ve got too much talent to sell it short, though.


    24 Jul 18 at 5:06 pm

  45. Zim over Adams again. Have at it


    24 Jul 18 at 6:08 pm

  46. Yup, good thing we got rid of that awful manager and installed a rookie in perhaps the most important season of this franchise’s history.

    I certainly hope Rizzo goes to the ownership group that inexplicably forced out Baker day after day right now and says, “yup, I told you so.”

    Todd Boss

    24 Jul 18 at 8:09 pm

  47. . . . and Turner benched, and Bryce out sick . . . and Tanner starting tomorrow . . .

    (Sorry, I don’t get the whole “Turner must be benched” thing, either. That punishes the team a lot more than it does Trea.)

    But it’s baseball. It’s one game out of 162. There are still 62 left after today, nearly 40% of the season.


    24 Jul 18 at 8:13 pm

  48. I went to bed thinking I could wake up with the Nats only five back, but instead it’s seven. Sigh. It’s getting ugly, and I can’t say that I’m too optimistic with Roark starting today. But at least Zim exceeded expectations.


    25 Jul 18 at 8:35 am

  49. Well OK then. We all saw that one coming, didn’t we? Eight scoreless from Roark, with 11 Ks. If things weren’t already confusing for Rizzo . . . Do they need another starter? I don’t know. If Roark and Gio can get back on track, they’re better than anyone else they could acquire for what they’re willing to pay. I just wish Ross was closer. He hasn’t even pitched in the GCL yet.

    At least Solis stepped up to nominate himself to be sent down when Glover is ready. And I say this as someone who has been a fan of Solis’s stuff. It’s not there for him right now, though. Demotion would leave them with only one lefty in the ‘pen, though, plus there would need to be a 40-man move to get Glover off the 60-day. (Probably goodbye to someone like Matt Reynolds, which isn’t a tough call.)


    25 Jul 18 at 8:33 pm

  50. I don’t know what pitching coaches actually do, but based on the collective performance of the pitching staff this year, it doesn’t speak highly of lilliquist’s work.

    Solís feels like Treinen and Rivero, where the talent is there but the coaching or usage just isn’t reaching them. Perfect candidate to go somewhere else and flourish. That gets frustrating.

    As for the rest of it, I’m not buying anything until they put together a prolonged stretch of good play.


    26 Jul 18 at 7:45 am

  51. Now Stras to DL again. A limited sale for a 2019 transition and reload begins to seem overwhelmingly obvious, but I wonder if Rizzo/ownership will have the guts. Never done it before.

    I wouldn’t trade Harper but Madson, Herrera, Gio, Hellickson, Murphy should be on the table.

    I’d keep Adams cause I want to extend him, and Reynolds wouldn’t have any value. But they could get some decent guys for those other ones and just pack it in with this group. They have a heck of a decent core to reload around. That’s rare.

    On Harper, I’d try to extend on reasonable terms. If they do, I’d look to trade Eaton in the offseason. If they don’t, I’d go with Robles, Eaton, Soto and MAT as 4th of next year. Turner, Rendon, and Zim/Adams (legit platoon tho). Need a 2B, C and pitching, but that club contends for playoffs.


    26 Jul 18 at 9:46 am

  52. Milone to start in place of Stras. He’s been decent recently at AAA after a rough start to the season. At least it won’t a challenging road environment — Miami on a Thursday night!

    I was ready to hold off on acquiring a starter after Roark’s performance yesterday, but now they’ve got no choice . . . unless they truly are punting. I don’t think this management and ownership are wired to punt, though, unless the Nats stink up the weekend and fall 9 or 10 back.

    I’m still predicting they will acquire one starting pitcher, maybe two, but for a limited price — guys like Sterling Sharp, Voth, Daniel Johnson. They will at least kick the tires on a backup catcher as well.

    If they end up really falling out of it, they can still deal through waivers. Expect them to try to float nearly every player with an expiring contract through waivers to make them trade-eligible in case they have to deal.

    Is it the best strategy not to give up and actually be buyers? I don’t know. If you’re being harshly realistic, the Nats’ record is 11th out of 15 in the NL, ahead of only four teams that aren’t trying (CIN, MIA, SD, and NYM). That said, it’s hard not to think of the Phils and Braves as vulnerable, and the division possibly winnable with 85 wins or so.


    26 Jul 18 at 10:21 am

  53. Braves are 5-10 over their last 15 so taking on some water. Phils are 8-7, still leaving the door open.


    26 Jul 18 at 10:27 am

Leave a Reply