Nationals Arm Race

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

Braves at Nats: this is the 2018 season-deciding series


Can Milone get another win? Photo: Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images/

Can Milone get another win? Photo: Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images/

So, despite winning 5 of 6 over the past week against two teams that havn’t really been trying for years, the Nats …. failed to make up a single game on Philly and head into the Atlanta series 6 games out.

That’s because Philly was also playing a team that isn’t really trying (Miami), and just finished off a nifty 4-game sweep at home.

But hey, at least the Nats scored 3 touchdowns in a game, driving their RS/RA average so far up that now by Pythagorean record they’re leading the division by two games!  You know, in that fantasy world of stat nerds that nobody cares about but which I’ve been guilty of pointing at myself and saying, “See!  they’re just unlucky and will win more soon!”

So here it is.  I’ve already basically written off the season … but hey, maybe if the team plays a 22-7 August … and both Atlanta and Philly scuffle along at .500 … they can get close.  But to play a 22-7 august … they need to take 3 of 4 against Atlanta this week.

Here’s the pitching match-ups they’ll go to war with:

  • Game 1: Max Fried versus Jefry Rodriguez.  Hmm.  Not a good start, having to call up a guy who has now fallen behind Tommy Milone on the depth chart.  I see the Braves jumping out to a quick 4 run lead and the “veteran leadership” packing it in early to regroup for the nightcap.
  • Game 2: Sean Newcomb vs Max Scherzer.  Scherzer will probably be unhittable, but Newcomb nearly threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers his last time out.  I see this as a close Nats win.
  • Game 3: Mike Foltynewicz vs Tommy Milone: Atlanta’s best pitcher in 2018 versus the Nats … #10 starter?  #9?  Foltynewicz has already started against the Nats four times, throwing a 2-hit shutout against them in June (albeit in Atlanta).  Odds are he’ll give up a few runs on the road against the Nats … can Milone keep up his magic show?
  • Game 4: Anibel Sanchez vs Gio Gonzalez.  Sanchez has been pretty good.  Gio has not.   Any guesses how I think this one will go?

So, you squint at these match-ups and … well a series split seems like an optimistic outcome.  Frankly, I could see just winning the Scherzer start and the other starters getting bombed by Atlanta’s youthful, powerful lineup.

The Phillies head to Arizona (tough), then to San Diego (not so tough) … but a 2-2 or even a 1-3 series here could really spell the end of it.

how are you feeling, heading into this series?



Written by Todd Boss

August 6th, 2018 at 4:33 pm

74 Responses to 'Braves at Nats: this is the 2018 season-deciding series'

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  1. Not feeling confident. That’s not a rotation that would be favored against many clubs.

    Best hope is the lineup catches fire and pounds the crap out of the Braves. It isn’t likely but it’s easier to root for that than well pitched games from each of the non-Max guys. Of those guys, I feel best about Milone. That’s what this season has come to 🙂

    To take the division, I think they have to win each of the remaining head to head series against ATL and PHI. So they need 3 out of 4 here. Doesn’t have to be realistic or reasonable, they just need to deliver.


    6 Aug 18 at 10:40 pm

  2. Courtesy of FanGraphs, here’s some fascinating info that shows Juan Soto may be the best teenage hitter ever.

    Mark L

    7 Aug 18 at 8:18 am

  3. On a very positive note, Joe Ross made his first GCL rehab appearance yesterday. It would seem likely that it will be September at best before he’s ready for MLB action, though.

    Speaking of missing arms, I’ve heard no mention of Fedde’s status.

    Starting pitching really will tell the tale down the stretch, though. I noted in comments on the last post my puzzlement over the Nats not acquiring a starter or two at the deadline. So we go into the biggest series of the year thus far starting J-Rod, Milone, and a struggling Gio. To his credit, Milone does seem like he has figured something out, but there’s very little recent track record for him to indicate that he can maintain the current pace. I’ve never understood their fascination with Rodriguez, who I’ve never thought projected as an MLB starter.


    7 Aug 18 at 9:00 am

  4. Mark, I’m enthralled watching Soto at-bats. He really is the real deal, and the plate discipline is amazing for any age. I was never a Barry Bonds fan, but Soto is starting to remind me of Bonds with the plate discipline, command of the box, and willingness to hit to all fields. If you look at Bonds’s numbers, though, he didn’t put up numbers comparable to Soto in wRC+/ISO/BB% until he was 26. What Soto is doing truly is remarkable.


    7 Aug 18 at 9:07 am

  5. KW, I read last week that when Soto was intentionally walked twice in a game, that was the 1st time that had happened to a teenager since 1896!

    Mark L

    7 Aug 18 at 9:39 am

  6. By the way, the Phils lost last night, so the Nats start Tuesday 5.5 back. If the Nats sweep and the Phils lose again, the Nats would be only 4 back. If the Nats get swept and the Phils win, they would be 7 back. That’s a HUGE range riding on this hot, muggy day.


    7 Aug 18 at 10:25 am

  7. I DON’T get the Greg Holland signing and immediate addition to the MLB roster. He’s been terrible. However, if they were to recall Tim Collins, they would have nearly all the old KC bullpen, other than Wade Davis.

    Really, I’d trust Cordero, Adams, or Gott over Holland right now.


    7 Aug 18 at 10:29 am

  8. They didn’t acquire starters because they didn’t feel confident enough about their prospects this year to warrant selling any more of their future. That was the correct call, imo.

    And I doubt that they are fascinated with JRod as a starter as much as they only like him better than Voth, and there is literally no one else.

    All hail Soto.

    I’ve been secretly waiting for the Ross news for a while now, both to help this year and for the next few years. This was unexpected and very encouraging. if the Nats can get to within 2/3 games by end of the month, have Stras and Doo back and Ross as a call up, well that would be a great scenario. But gotta win these series.


    7 Aug 18 at 10:35 am

  9. Rodriguez did hold the Braves scoreless over 4.2 IP in his first MLB outing . . . but has given up 16 runs in 14 IP in four starts since then. His story strikes me as very similar to Cole’s — someone who really should be a long man who they’ve kept over-long as a starter because they can’t develop other credible starters in the upper minors.

    Personally, I’ve give McGowin a chance over J-Rod and Voth.

    As for the trades/no-trades, I didn’t want them to deal prime prospects. Frankly, there wasn’t a starter available who was worth a top-tier prospect. I had no interest in guys like Hamels or Happ with ERAs approaching 5. It wasn’t a good market. But the A’s got Fiers for pocket change. And they got Edwin Jackson for less than that because the Nats mismanaged him. All they had to do was add him to the bullpen. But they clung so tightly to stiffs at the bottom rungs of the 40-man instead.


    7 Aug 18 at 11:31 am

  10. OK, it seems that whoever I disparage goes out and has a great game. (Either that, or J-Rod should only pitch against the Braves.) Anyway, that Scherzer guy hasn’t been worth 10 cents on the dollar for what we paid for him, and that awful Soto really needs to figure out how to get on base more than that measly five times a game. (Soto is currently second in MLB in OBP, behind only that Trout fella.)

    Very good to see the team show up with a chip on its shoulder for the first game. Keep the energy up for the second one.


    7 Aug 18 at 4:45 pm

  11. Obviously I should have “called out” some folks other than Max and Magic Juan, who both delivered. The Nats have now lost seven games Scherzer has started. In six of those, he gave up two runs or less. In the outlier, he surrendered three.

    So they stole a win with J-Rod but wasted a Max start and now have to cross their fingers with Milone and Gio.


    8 Aug 18 at 7:18 am

  12. Koda Glover has to be on the way to Washington given Hererra’s injury, no?


    8 Aug 18 at 9:55 am

  13. Tuesday DH split .. ironically the team won the game I thought they’d lose and vice versa. The bigger test comes today. The Braves absolutely should win a Folty-Milone matchup. Lets see what happens.

    Not a good trend for this bullpen: in the last week we lose three solid RH arms to injury/petulance. I’ll bet Cordero comes right back up so they avoid the option.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 18 at 10:30 am

  14. Good call Derek! Herrera to DL, Glover back with the team

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 18 at 3:47 pm

  15. I’d like to now note for the record our current 7-man bullpen versus what it was OPening day:

    Opening day: Doolittle*, Madsen, Knitzler, Kelley, Gott, Solis*, Grace*, Romero*
    Today: Madsen, JMiller, Grace*, Solis*, Suero, Holland, Glover

    That’s some serious turnover. Madsen, Grace and Solis only consistent names. Doolittle D/L, Knitzler traded for being a snitch, Kelley DFA’d for being a baby, Gott ineffective and Romero dumped after just 5 innings.

    Todd Boss

    8 Aug 18 at 3:50 pm

  16. So, no surprise here that Milone gave up 7 runs by the 3rd inning.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 18 at 9:44 am

  17. I’ve been reluctant to “give up,” and the D-Backs have kept us in it by taking two out of three from the Phils, but we’ve reached the point where the Nats have to do something or it really will be over. It might as well start (or end) with Gio, as he’s got to be a lot better for them to have a chance. Roark has turned things around, so it’s Gio’s time to man up.

    And for the love of Pete, don’t give up a homer to flippin’ Charlie Culberson! He has only 14 career homers, but FIVE of them have come against the Nats this year, including one in each of the games of this series. That’s just embarrassing.


    9 Aug 18 at 9:58 am

  18. When Charlie f’ing Culberson owns you, it just may not be your year.

    Today is must-win. The season is hanging by a thread at this point. We all thought the bats would come around, and they mostly have (Bryce Harper is not a .210 hitter, who woulda thunkit?). It’s too bad the pitching mostly has not. If the Nats don’t make the playoffs, I am going to say that Strasburg’s second DL stint is the proximate cause (which is to say the last important link in the causal chain, not the MOST important).


    9 Aug 18 at 10:47 am

  19. And to add insult to injury … no Harper today.

    Reminder: to get to 90 wins … Nats now need to go 32-16 the rest of the way, basically meaning they need to take 2 out of every 3 game series, without fail, here on out.

    Meanwhile, the Phillies only need to go 26-22 to get to 90 wins .. and their current seasonal W/L projects them to 91 so even 90 wins may not get there.

    tic toc.

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 18 at 12:01 pm

  20. I’ve not been one to jump up and down criticizing Harper, but he really should be tearing up that lineup card and insisting that he’s playing today. What are they saving him for? His new team next season? There are times when you rest players and times when you don’t, and this isn’t one of them.

    Really, their whole chance to remain relevant rides on the next eight games. They’ve got to go 6-2 or so (with seven of those on the road against the Cubs and Cards) or start running a lot of guys through waivers and clearing the decks.


    9 Aug 18 at 12:57 pm

  21. off topic: I got a great picture the other week from a former baseball-playing teammate who still plays in DCMSBL; his 30+ team faced off against the Loudoun Bulls featuring … Jayson Werth.

    Today I see this; someone got him on video destroying a homer at my alma-mater field Madison HS in Vienna. Awesome!

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 18 at 2:53 pm

  22. Biggest win of the season on Thursday . . . at least until the next one . . . If the Gio of the last four innings is back, giving up only one hit and no walks, that would give the Nats a fighting chance. It was a strong game all around, making the wasted Scherzer start even more infuriating.


    9 Aug 18 at 6:50 pm

  23. Can’t argue with Gio start. Can point out that the Nats split a series at home against not even the team they need to be chasing down in which two of their four starters left after 2 innings with injury.

    Todd Boss

    10 Aug 18 at 10:56 am

  24. Stick a fork in them, I’m calling it. I’m just not buying a turnaround any more. They play just close enough to keep you hanging on, and I’m not going to play that game any more.

    I’d like to see all decisions through season-end be done with 2019 in mind. Call up Robles; maybe try JRod in the pen. Call up Williams. Give Difo the starts at 2B.

    I don’t care about trades, since I don’t see them getting anything significant in return.

    I’d take a shot at re-signing Harper. Maybe 10/$250 with an opt-out in 2 years? If he signs, trade Eaton. If not, go with Robles/Soto/Eaton with MAT as 4th OF. Re-sign Adams, and find a C.


    10 Aug 18 at 5:59 pm

  25. Another close game, another very good starting pitching performance (to a point), more bad base-running, more questionable managing, more failures with plenty RISP (2 for 11) . . . and another loss. It was basically the whole season in microcosm. Sigh.

    But Glover is back from the dead.

    I think they’ve got to win five out of seven on this road trip or be in dire straits. They blew the first one, so now they’ve got to win five of six.

    I wouldn’t call up Robles this year at all. No reason to blow a year of service time. I don’t know that there’s anything to learn about Difo, either. He’s gotten more than a full season’s worth of ABs over the last two years, posting a wRC+ of 76 last season and 74 this year. He’s not a starter for a contender — period. Not sure what they’re going to do at 2B next year if Kendrick isn’t ready by the start of the season, but it’s not Difo. At the same time, C. Kieboom might be ready by mid-’19, so you wouldn’t want to invest too much.

    I’m more interested in extending Rendon than I am Bryce. I’ve been on the sign-Bryce bandwagon for a long time, but I’m struggling to figure out how it makes sense beyond a certain AAV. I’m not writing it off, and I generally would be happy if it happens, but I’m not totally convinced that it makes sense.


    10 Aug 18 at 10:13 pm

  26. Also, I wonder what Werth is telling Bryce, specifically about Boras’s tactics. The recent quotes by Werth about Boras, getting told to wait and wait while no one called, were the truth. Now, Bryce will have suitors, but you also wonder what Werth has told him about Philly.

    If LA has to pay Machado and Kershaw this offseason, the Dodgers are out of the picture. I don’t see how Bryce fits with the Yanks, either. SF sure needs OFs, but I’m not sure the Giants are realistically close enough to contending to spend that much on a big-ticket guy.

    We’ll see. It really seems like Bryce is having some second thoughts about leaving the only team he’s ever known. He was/is also buds with Desmond, who I’m sure knows he made a mistake. Desi loved it here. So did Werth, who settled here. He just won’t be allowed to play in the local wood-bat leagues for a few more years!


    10 Aug 18 at 10:19 pm

  27. If I understand the service time rules correctly (and I give that a 50% chance at best), calling him up now v. beginning of next season doesn’t impact service time, they control him through 2024. If they held him back until sometime in May, then they’d get another year. If that’s right, I’d call him up now and play him everyday. They won’t, because either Harper or Eaton would become the 4th OF, and they aren’t willing to do that.

    You’re probably right about Difo, but I’d do it anyway. You aren’t going to learn anything more about Murphy. And the pitchers, who we will see in a few weeks anyway.

    Even with all the grief he’s gotten, I wouldn’t fire DMart. He can still grow.

    Lastly, even though he is a decent starting pitcher, I would not re-sign Gio. He’s maddening and can kill a bullpen, so he impacts more than 1 game. I’m comfortable with Max, Stras and Roark, then maybe sign 1 FA (probably ok although Morton would be high on the list) and let Fedde, Ross, fight it out, with a couple NRIs for depth.


    11 Aug 18 at 7:07 am

  28. . . . and the Phils get shut out by the Halos to keep the Nats in it, barely.

    I would be surprised if Martinez is fired. He hasn’t been great at managing games, but he also hasn’t “lost” the clubhouse. But if the team gets off to a slow start in 2019, the leash has to be short.

    2019 starters: Max, Stras, Roark, Ross, and Fedde. I’m still not convinced by Fedde, but I doubt they’ll spend big for someone else. Ross will be innings-limited. They might consider bringing Hellickson back, but not for much. They’ll need a couple of Milone types at AAA (which won’t be Syracuse) as they’ve got no starter depth. J-Rod and Voth will still be around, and Crowe should be close.

    2019 lineup: the only holes are at C and 2B. There aren’t easy answers at C, but most anything has to be better than what they’ve got now. As noted, 2B is tricky because C. Kieboom should be close, and Kendrick may or may not be back to bridge the gap.

    OF either Soto/Robles/Eaton or Soto/Harper/Eaton. Either way, it’s time to get something for Taylor. If Harper re-signs, frankly I’d trade Robles for a big return.

    Bullpen: Doo closing, Koda setting up, and a fair amount of rebuilding to do otherwise. I do think Austen Williams looks like he could have role, which is amazing for a guy who looked close to being released last year.

    That’s a competitive team. It’s more competitive with Harper than without him, and there are some real questions at the back end of the rotation and front end of the bullpen.


    11 Aug 18 at 9:31 am

  29. Err, not the Halos, the Pads.


    11 Aug 18 at 9:32 am

  30. Robles at AAA in August: .182/.308/.212. NOT ready for prime time . . .


    11 Aug 18 at 9:34 am

  31. Here’s my radical thought for the 2019 rotation: bring back Hellickson and intentionally pair him with Ross, with each expected to go four innings. At first glance, it would seem to burn one of your bullpen slots, but if your bullpen gets spared the overuse of a 5-inning starter, it’s probably close to a wash.


    11 Aug 18 at 9:59 am

  32. I can’t see Rizzo doing something that creative, even though it’s interesting. Is the leash actually too short for Hellickson? Maybe they should let him face a third time through once or twice?

    I’ll bet they do sign or trade for a mid tier guy. One o/o/t/b idea I had is to trade for Sonny Gray, if he comes reasonably cheap. He hasn’t looked good but a change of scenery and away from NY might do wonders.

    They need more depth than what you’ve said. Stras can not be relied on for a full season, and at some point Max has to show his age.

    I disagree on Robles. He may not be back in game shape yet but he is definitely ready for the majors. That being said, if they re-sign Harper and can get some quality pitching for him, I’d be ok with a trade.


    11 Aug 18 at 11:53 am

  33. Since we’re all giving up on 2018 (I did two weeks ago I think), maybe its worth looking at what this team may do. In a separate post.

    Todd Boss

    11 Aug 18 at 4:37 pm

  34. Not giving up! Roark is definitely back. Zim is coming alive. They’ve just got to play consistently and not blow games they should win . . . like tomorrow night . . .

    Wally, I completely agree that they’ll need more starter depth. They need more starter depth NOW. Max is getting older and won’t be awesome forever, Stras is brittle, Roark was looking like a non-tender candidate just a couple of weeks ago, Ross is coming back from TJ and will be innings-limited, and Fedde still hasn’t proven anything. Does that about cover it?

    I probably would only trade Robles for a stud starter controlled for at least three seasons. That said, I’m still not convinced that Robles will be a star at the MLB level. Not saying that he won’t be; as I’ve said before, his value will have to come across several categories since he won’t have Soto’s power, and probably not Soto’s ultra-advanced hit tool.


    11 Aug 18 at 10:02 pm

  35. So it occurred to me the other day … the Nats jettisoned two of their most valuable bullpen pieces theoretically as a “penalty” for their bad behavior.
    – Knitzler ends up with the Cubs who have the best record in the NL and have a 96% chance of making the playoffs as we speak per Fangraphs
    – Kelley ends up with Oakland, who currently sit 21 games above 500 and are probably a lock to at least make the wild card.

    meanwhile, the nats sputter at .500 and significantly weaken the bullpen.

    So, who really got penalized here?? If you really wanted to “send a message” to these two guys you’d send them to a last place team.

    Todd Boss

    12 Aug 18 at 9:05 am

  36. What a gut punch way to lose last night. That was the final nail in the coffin of this season for me. I’ve long thought that it just wasn’t going to happen, and that type of loss when you can’t afford to waste performances like that just encapsulated this season. Unfortunately they’ll probably hand around long enough to not dump assets and salary.

    I can’t wait for the day when this team proves they can be a winner when it’s not wire to wire in a season though. That’s what disappoints me most, that they dug a whole, claimed nothing was urgent early, and then can’t overcome it.


    13 Aug 18 at 7:31 am

  37. No words. That was a disaster of biblical proportions. If they had won the two they flushed in Chicago, they’d be only 3.5 back.

    Max has given up one run total in his last two starts and they’ve blown both of them. They’ve lost EIGHT games he started. He gave up 3 ER in one of those and 2 or less in all the rest. It’s not ridiculous to suggest that he could be 25-0. If so, his team would be in first place, and he’d be front runner for MVP.



    13 Aug 18 at 7:34 am

  38. yeah, just god-awful.

    I’m actually kind of with MG. Maybe this is an overstatement, but the entirety of the Nats history is they win when they have an overwhelming talent edge (usually). They never seem like they win a truly clutch game. Hudson called it all those years ago.

    I’ve kind of wanted wholesale changes the last year or two, and this is largely why. They have talented players but something always seems off. I am ready for a new mix, even if they have to step back for a year or two.


    13 Aug 18 at 11:00 am

  39. The guy on the mound has two WS rings. He got bad defense from Difo and a bad call on what should have been the game-ending third strike to Contreras. None of that has to do with “culture.” Culture may have been an issue at several other times in 2018, but Sunday night wasn’t one of them. In fact, for once they actually got the big hit for vital insurance runs. They just should have taken out a bigger policy . . .

    Significant changes are coming in the next offseason regardless of how things play out. The team will be different without guys like Murphy, Wieters, Gio, Madson, and maybe Harper. Replacements for none of these are self-evident, though; in fact, Robles is the only reasonable filler for any of them on the immediate horizon, unless you squint to also see Carter Kieboom in the distance.

    Scherzer, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Rendon, and Soto are mortal locks to still be with the team. Folks may bandy about the notion of trading guys like Turner or Eaton, but don’t hold your breath. Can’t see them getting enough for one year of Roark to take him out of the rotation plans, either.

    This year’s team is six games under its Pythagorean projection. Last year’s was one game over. The only significant change was the manager. Some people refer to Pythagorean as “luck,” but it has always struck me more as a reflection of whether a team lives up to its potential. This one hasn’t. Point your fingers in whichever direction you wish.


    13 Aug 18 at 1:36 pm

  40. I wasn’t saying the “culture” was the cause of last nights loss, just my major takeaway from this season as a whole. That kind of loss would have been rough in any season, but especially this one and especially at this point in the season.

    I feel like the struggles in April and August have been similar. Team performing well in a lot of areas, but there is a key component missing. In April it was the consistent offense, now it’s the bullpen and back of the rotation. Both months struggles really only matter because on the disaster that was June and July when they were pretty awful across the board (except for a few individuals like Max, Soto and Doolittle).


    13 Aug 18 at 5:11 pm

  41. I didn’t use the word culture but understand why you went there. I think they’ve shown to be soft, that’s what I meant by they win when they have a sizable talent advantage.

    Here’s what Hudson said: “Obviously they have a talented group over there, there’s no question,” Hudson told The Post’s Barry Svrluga. “They have some great pitching. But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs? That’s going to take you real far. And I think we’ve got a group in here that really has some of that.”

    I’ve been a Nats fan from the beginning, and still remember keenly all the embarrassing times. So I’ve appreciated how good they became. But if I’m being honest, looking back at their history, this quote, even stated as crudely as it was, accurately describes them. Immensely talented but failing to win when it counts. Maybe that changes. Maybe that changes this year. But until it does, this defines them.

    I don’t know what the right mix is. Just seems like this one isn’t it.


    13 Aug 18 at 6:04 pm

  42. And, I point the finger at the players. It’s always the players, good or bad. If the manager isn’t playing the best ones, then I can see blaming the manager.

    I’ve only ever liked 1 Nats manager – Davey 1.0. I was ok with Riggleman, believe it or not, and I’d put Davey 2.0 next. Dusty – I dunno, just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way.

    But I would have chosen Randy Knorr after 1.0


    13 Aug 18 at 6:08 pm

  43. I think most of the criticism of Davey has been overblown…until recently. Yes, the team has had some poor performances, but he made terrible decisions – that were terrible at the time, not just in hindsight – and cost the team two wins. On Friday, he left Hellickson in to chase the no-no. If Hellickson had given up a lousy single in the 3rd inning, he would have yanked him after he walked Rizzo. Instead, Davey left him in to face Baez – whom he walked, which is not easy – and still left him in to face the next batter. I know the bullpen is terrible these days, but I’d still rather play matchups with the pen than have the nibbling starter who rarely pitches more than 5IP go through the order a third time.

    Last night was even worse. After the Solis wild pitch to Carpenter put runners on 2d and 3d, it was INEXCUSABLE not to put Carpenter on. There’s just no choice there. It doesn’t matter that Solis is a lefty and so is Carpenter whereas Molina is a righty. Carpenter may be the hottest hitter in the world. With 1B open, you put him on to face Molina. Period. I still can’t believe Davey let Solis face Carpenter in that situation. It’s the most Matt Williams-esque thing to occur in Washington since Matt Williams was Matt Williamsing.


    14 Aug 18 at 10:11 am

  44. An observation by Dusty about middle of his first season in DC still seems appropriate to me; he said – apologies that I don’t recall the exact quote, perhaps wiser heads than mine can retrieve it (WaPo?) – “they’re great guys, terrific players, I just wish that they had some MEAN in them.”


    14 Aug 18 at 1:48 pm

  45. So today, in the “as the bullpen turns,” Madsen to the D/L, Solis to the AAA team.

    Gee …. don’t you wish you had Kelley and Knitzler right around now? We’re RIGHT back where we were in the beginning of the 2017 season, when literally there was nobody to put into games thanks to a chronic inability to generate relievers out of the minors. someone said it earlier but it bears repeating.

    As of tonight the bullpen is this: JMiller, Grace*, Suero, Holland, Glover, Gott, Collins*

    And here’s a list of players they’ve acquired in the last few years in order to create their bullpens and the guys who we traded away.
    x 2015: Jonathan Papelbon for $4.5M and Nick Pivetta (now in the Philly rotation)
    x 2016: Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero, Taylor Hearn (Pittsburgh’s closer and a solid AA starter prospect in Texas’ org)
    x 2018: Cash for A.J. Cole post DFA (Cole immediately turns into a lights-out middle reliever for the yankees)
    x 2017: Brandon Knitzler for Tyler Watson and Intl bonus money (Watson now a 21-yr old in high-A ball)
    x 2018: Kelvin Herrera for Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins, Yohanse Morel
    x 2017: Ryan Madsen/Sean Doolittle for Blake Treinen/Jesus Luzardo/Sheldon Neuse: this is the one we may end up having night mares about: Treinen has been damn effective as Oakland’s closer, Luzardo is now basically the best left handed starter prospect in teh minors, and Neuse has continued to mash
    x 2016: Marc Rzepczynski for Max Schrock (everyone’s favorite trade to whine about since we got so little for Schrock).

    Yes, this is cherry picking somewhat. But just look at the amount of talent out the door in terms of players and prospects who have gone on to solid things versus what we’ve received in terms of production from those we got back. Papelbon utter failure. Melancon solid but at a pretty significant cost. Knitzler; dumped for peanuts. Herrera hurt. Madsen hurt. Doolittle solid … and hurt. Rzep threw like 5 innings for us.

    And now we’re looking dead at the barrel of yet another full bullpen remake in the off season?

    Todd Boss

    14 Aug 18 at 11:17 pm

  46. Uncle. I’ve been one of the last holdouts, but it’s over. This is a lifeless, leaderless bunch that is going nowhere. Every night there’s a failure in at least one key component: starting pitching, relief pitching, or hitting.

    On August 15 of last year, the Nats won again to move to 25 games over .500, 71-46. The core group is the same. Yes, there have been some injuries, but there were last season as well. It’s been an embarrassingly bad turn in the wrong direction by the whole organization.


    15 Aug 18 at 7:15 am

  47. Yeah, it sucks but it happens. Baseball players and teams just have those unexplained, off years and this is one of them. There was added focus this year because of the ‘last year of Bryce’ meme, but honestly, I never thought about it that way. He’ll come back or they will move on, and if ever a team had quality prospects to absorb a departing superstar, it’s this one. Two top 5 OF prospects in baseball is a good way to start.

    We are almost at the point where we can rehash why this happened, and I’d say this: they were ok in most areas, but never had one area of the club that was dominant, and so there was no identity.
    Pitching was so/so – Stras hasn’t been right all year, and Gio and Roark were never good at the same time. Helly was fine but limited, but it’s almost like the rotation only ever had 2.5 quality starters at any point in time. And the bullpen was ok but not dominant before all the injuries.

    Hitting – I think they really, really missed the 2016/7 version of Murphy, a consistent, high contact, above average slugger that let everyone else go through their ups and downs. Plus he was clutch. Then Kendrick, who was a quality hitter, gets hurt early. So they go from their glue guy, to a quality back up, to a hole in the lineup. If everyone else picked up the slack it could have been ok, but There were other injuries and slumps. but every team gets them and so I’d consider it normal.

    Manager – look, if he is playing the best players (which I think he largely did), there is only so much a manager can influence, but Martinez certainly didn’t have a good year. A guy like Davey 1.0 or Dusty, a big personality type, has a way of deflecting attention that can sometimes buy a little time for a team to work through struggles, and he did none of that.


    15 Aug 18 at 8:08 am

  48. Feeling Philosophical this morning, so I’m going to keep going.

    When looking back on this stretch of Nats teams, from 2012 to 2018, I think what really took place (but not so many people talk about) is that these teams weren’t as good as we all thought. I don’t say that bitterly or maliciously. I just think their stats and their perceived quality was overstated due to playing so many games against teams that were severely rebuilding. So their counting stats and their win totals were inflated, but the truth is they only had a few players who could pitch and hit well against quality opponents (mostly pitchers, not many hitters). Think about it this way – when did the Nats ever do better than you thought they would? Really just 2011 and 2012. Every other year has seemed like a disappointment relative to how good you thought they were, but if they were playing in a division where two other teams were pretty good, they wouldn’t have looked as good and the disappointments wouldn’t have been so significant.

    Of all those teams, I thought last year’s was the strongest. So when they didn’t get it done, I was basically ready to turn over the roster.

    They need to do that this offseason. The good news is that Rizzo, while showing some cracks in his abilities at building a roster to get a team over the hump, is very good at that kind of thing. We don’t have to go through a bottoming out period but this team needs a new identity and focus.

    And please, don’t re-sign Gio. I do get that he is an average starter these days, and a heck of a lot better than Fedde and JRod types. I just don’t want to watch him any more. He’s driven me nuts for the last several years.


    15 Aug 18 at 8:19 am

  49. A side note on Fedde; it was he who was slid to the 60-day D/L to make way for the latest Bullpen retread. He went on 10 day d/l on July 5th, so he can come off right after roster expansion … but someone would have to make way with a full 40 roster. Is this his second season ending injury in a row?

    Side note; this team has used 27 (!!) pitchers this year. 27. NOt including Mark Reynolds. That’s the most since 2009 and nearly a Nats record for different bodies used.

    Todd Boss

    15 Aug 18 at 4:06 pm

  50. And yet the Nats are on pace to surrender 653 runs in 2018, 19 fewer than in 2017. In fact, the pitching numbers show almost no statistical difference: ERA 3.87 vs. 3.88; FIP 3.98 vs. 3.99; WHIP 1.22 vs. 1.24.

    So what’s different? The hitting, although it’s very similar to 2016 (when the pitch was phenomenal to cover up for it). Runs: 740 projected in 2018 vs. 763 in 2016; BA .250 vs. .256; OBP .328 vs. .326; SLG .426 vs. .414; ISO .164 vs. .170; wRC+ 98 vs. 97.

    So . . . statistically, the 2018 isn’t as much of an outlier for this collective group of players as it feels like it is. It just has no clutch. One-run games: 11-21 (2018), 30-21 (2017), 26-19 (2016). They more or less failed in this category under Matt Williams in 2015 (22-22), but not nearly as badly as in 2018. Did Dusty make a difference? It’s hard to look at those numbers and conclude that he didn’t.


    16 Aug 18 at 10:09 am

  51. One-run games: 2018 (-10), 2017 (+9), 2016 (+7), 2015 (E), 2014 (+4), 2013 (+4), 2012 (+6). The 2018 Nats are also -7 vs. Pythagoras. The only year out of the seven in question they’ve been close to that was the awful 2015, when they were -6. Draw your own conclusions about how much managers contribute to such things, but the current one is running even worse than Matt Williams.

    Best year against Pythagoras was 2012 at +4. The other four varied no more than +2/-2 either way. In other words, the manager did about what should have been expected of the team based on the runs it scored and surrendered.


    16 Aug 18 at 10:23 am

  52. Oops, just noticed that I have the SLG reversed above: it’s .414 in 2018, was .426 in 2016. Full slash lines:

    2018: .250/.328/.414
    2017: .266/.332/.449
    2016: .256/.326/.426


    16 Aug 18 at 10:28 am

  53. I’m sure I’m looking for the negative and bad at this point, but this quote from Zim last night made me choke:
    “I think we’ve learned not to worry about expectations, good or bad,”

    I get what he’s trying to say, but it also sums up what we we discussed earlier about this team never exceeding expectations or having a fighters mentality. I’ve never particularly liked Zims insistence on always staying medium, but this takes the cake.

    Shouldn’t standing pat at the deadline, Lerner’s letter to the fans, and Rizzo’s actions to dump Kinntzler and Kelley have communicated that this team needs to pay attention to the high expectations on them?


    16 Aug 18 at 12:35 pm

  54. I would have clearly worded it differently than Zim, but I am struck that the 3 recent disappointing seasons (18, 15,13) all started with the team seeming to assume they were safe in the reg season and focusing on the playoffs from the start (“get over the hump”, “where’s my ring”, “world series or bust”). I hope that Zim’s point was that the team really needs to be more focused on solid fundamentals and winning 1 game/series at a time right from the start (i.e., pre-season), regardless of external expectations.


    16 Aug 18 at 1:04 pm

  55. If that were the case, he probably would have participated in ST this year instead of mailing it in and claiming he was ready for Opening Day.


    16 Aug 18 at 1:16 pm

  56. I don’t put too much stock in what any of the athletes say. Most view media relations as a necessary evil and are just looking to say a few platitudes and move on.

    The bigger concern is that they seem to play with that attitude.

    but boy, do they look like they have already checked out on the season, or what? That’s why I think Rizzo should use this time to get a sense of some younger players and whether they have a role next year or not.

    I’d bring up robles and at least two or three potential bullpen pieces, including Adams. He’s flamed out in his few, limited chances but his stuff and minor league numbers are good enough that I’d like to see if he can get past the jitters with an extended stretch in low leverage situations.

    Enough with the vets.


    16 Aug 18 at 1:37 pm

  57. 60-61, 9 games back, Atlanta now projects to 93 wins so to get the Nats to 93 wins they need to go 33-8 here on out.

    Just in case anyone still has hope for this year 🙂

    Todd Boss

    16 Aug 18 at 3:01 pm

  58. Well, if you are looking for an area to hope for a recovery this year, and I’m not personally, it’s head to head. More with Philly thank ATL, but sweep those and maybe that starts a chain of events.

    But they aren’t playing good baseball and I see little chance it happens. This appears to be one time where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

    They could wind up with the CYA and ROY on a vastly disappointing team. If DMart doesn’t kill them both with overuse.


    16 Aug 18 at 4:09 pm

  59. Nine games remaining head-to-head with the Phils, only three with the Braves. That’s why blowing the two games in the last series with the Barvos was so devastating.

    But hey, they finally won a one-run game, right? That makes them nine games under .500 in one-run games this season, compared to nine games over .500 in such contests in 2017. I’ve tried not to be too anti-Martinez, but that really is a damning stat.

    As some have noted above, for a team without a lot of demonstrative players, it seems clear (in retrospect) that Dusty provided a lot of that energy and refuse-to-lose mentality that is sorely lacking in 2018. Dusty’s success in one-run contests also seems to refute the charges that he wasn’t a good in-game manager, as he must have been doing something right to win more one-run games in two years than Johnson and Williams did in four combined.


    17 Aug 18 at 12:26 pm

  60. To clarify, more games over .500 in one-run games. Dusty was 16 games over across two seasons, Davey was 10 games over for 2012-13 (I don’t have the breakout for his games in 2011), and Matt W. was four games over for 2014-15. Even in their awful 2015 season, they went .500 in their one-run games.


    17 Aug 18 at 12:30 pm

  61. Helly to the DL. Maybe Max can pitch every game, at least until Stras returns?

    But no worries, the new bullpen cart debuts tonight, which will save wear and tear on the pen. 🙂


    17 Aug 18 at 6:06 pm

  62. I see a bunch of stuff is blowing up over Dusty’s interview. To be clear, Dusty made plenty of mistakes and perhaps was too stubborn to change some of his old-school ways. But he also won a ton of games. Maybe he won them in part because the division was weak; maybe not. The biggest gripe about him seemed to be his overuse of starters and the bullpen . . . only Martinez has overused them even more this season.

    I’m not totally in the tank for Dusty, and I don’t totally hate Martinez. I just miss winning. As Wally said somewhere above, the manager I thought probably had the best handle on things was Johnson, yet he really lost the handle on that 2013 team. But like Dusty, I think he brought some of the fire to the team that didn’t generate a lot itself.

    I dunno. I would be very surprised if Martinez gets fired this year, unless the team really tanks over the last few weeks.


    17 Aug 18 at 6:16 pm

  63. I know its really difficult to quantify the effect of a manager. But when your offense is basically the same as last year, and your pitching is basically the same too …and yet you’re 62-61 on year and they were 75-48 at the same point last year …. at some point you have to look at underlying issues. Record in one run games, pythagorean records, the man-management issues that led to the gutting of the bullpen, the whispering in the press, the handling of vets, the inconsistency of player discipline, the complete lack of enthusiasm/sense of urgency outside of perhaps two games the entire season (that’d be the first game post Scherzer-led meeting and the first game after the trade deadline).

    I’m sure Rizzo is having a serious discussion with his meddling ownership group over this situation and basically saying, “i told you so.”

    Todd Boss

    18 Aug 18 at 5:08 pm

  64. . . . and the Nats blow another close game on Saturday that would have gotten the deficit down to six behind the Braves. The Braves and Phils are both scuffling right now and not running away with anything. But when you’re throwing away gimme games with the Marlins, you don’t deserve to win anything.

    FWIW, the team still looks like it cares. At some point, caring has to translate into an extended winning streak, though, or it’s not going to matter.


    19 Aug 18 at 7:53 am

  65. Saturday was bad, but then there was Sunday. Looking like they still care seems to be out the window.


    19 Aug 18 at 7:42 pm

  66. Sunday was an utter embarrassment to the entire organization. The bigger problem is that it wasn’t a one-off; the Nats have been having at least two or three games a month where they don’t show up.

    The Braves and Phils lost again. The Nats have had every chance in the world to get back in it. But they’re 5-9 over their latest stretch, and back under .500. I’ve lost count of how many games over the last couple of weeks that they’ve wasted. They easily could be just three or four back and making the leaders sweat.


    20 Aug 18 at 8:34 am

  67. I agree with everything said here.

    Let’s not forget the Nats let the best pitching coach in baseball walk. Unforgivable.
    Now we have the Cards the talk of baseball about how all their young kids are pitching so well while the veterans are injured. I wonder why!

    Mark L

    20 Aug 18 at 10:40 am

  68. Between their embarrassing low-balling on manager salary, their unjustified firing of Dusty after two division titles, and their undercutting of the FO by personally dealing with Scott Boras to sign awful deals, the Lerners have undeniably hurt this team. Their meddling is moving them into Peter Angelos territory, and since DC already has an awful meddling owner in Dan Snyder, that’s really bad luck for Washington fans. Hey, at least we have Ted Leonsis, right?


    20 Aug 18 at 11:41 am

  69. Leonsis finally won a championship by moving on from a generally successful GM who couldn’t quite get over the hump (while at the same time continuing to renew his decidedly mediocre hoops GM). Oh, and the Caps won the championship guided by a veteran coach with the fifth-most wins of all time . . . and then didn’t renew him . . .


    20 Aug 18 at 12:32 pm

  70. As I’ve noted above, statistically speaking, Lilliquist’s pitchers have produced almost exactly the same numbers as Maddux’s did last season, so I’m not jumping up and down too much about the loss of Maddux. Gio was very good for him in ’17 and not in ’16, while Tanner was the reverse. Someone does seem to have “fixed” Tanner this year, finally; maybe it was Lilli. Someone successfully reworked Stras’s mechanics in ’17, although it was never clear whether it was Maddux. (Since folks didn’t explicitly point to him as doing it, it probably wasn’t him.) Stras didn’t stay healthy with either of them. Max has been great under McCatty, Maddux, and Lilli, not that any of them get any credit for that. Ross wasn’t much different under Maddux in ’16 than he was with McCatty in ’15, then got worse and got hurt in ’17.

    Maddux never seemed to push too hard with Dusty to not overuse the starters or the bullpen — my biggest frustration with him — just as Lilli hasn’t seemed to keep Martinez from repeating the same mistakes. Maddux was at a loss with what to do with Giolito, but the Chisox haven’t exactly turned him into an ace, either. Neither Maddux nor Lilliquist has done much thus far to make Fedde look like a major-leaguer.


    20 Aug 18 at 12:46 pm

  71. We know Martinez hasn’t been good in one-run games — 12-21 thus far. Out of curiosity, I looked at games with two-run margins, and he’s only 14-16 in those contests. So in games decided by two runs or less, the Nats are 26-37, which is 11 games under .500. There’s no clutch there. They are only 6-5 in games decided by three runs. Basically, they’re only well above average when they’re winning big, although they’ve also now lost by 5+ runs 14 times.


    20 Aug 18 at 12:52 pm

  72. Nuts.

    The season sucks, so most components of the season suck too. Davey sucks, but Dusty sucked too. (Except Max; he doesn’t suck).

    I don’t know what value a pitching coach offers. Teams employ them, so I assume its something. But what it is, who knows.

    I feel like a mature, vet pitcher probably gets little value from a pitching coach beyond maybe game planning for hitters and series. So let’s toss out the beginning-of-season starting rotation. But maybe a way to judge them is the young guys? have any improved beyond expectations, performed in line, or gotten worse?

    Fedde, JRod, Gott, Suero, Glover, Voth, Adams, Solis, Grace, Cordero – am I missing anyone? did anyone do better than you were thinking they would? Only Suero, I think, although I had almost no expectations that JRod was a major leaguer, and he’s shown flashes lately that make me think he could do something, probably in a bullpen. Grace has had a good year, but it feels lucky so let’s just say that’s normal season to season variance. Fedde has maybe underperformed what I was expecting. But everyone else was in line with my expectations. So I don’t see anything there to make a determination.

    But I’d fire him anyway. Sometimes you just have to make changes, and he is an easy one. Plus, I expect the rotation to get younger going forward and he doesn’t seem to have a particular rapport with young guys.


    20 Aug 18 at 2:50 pm

  73. The pitching coach who has impressed me this season is the new guy at Harrisburg, Michael Tejera. He seems to be behind the success of guys like J-Rod, McGowin, Austen Williams, and the departed Sterling Sharp.

    As for Lilliquist, it’s hard to know what he is or isn’t doing. Tony LaRussa hired him, and Matheny (a catcher) kept him for many seasons with a quality organization, so I would think that he has something going for him.


    21 Aug 18 at 9:13 am

  74. Here’s the fire sale. Murphy to cubs (utility guy + cash) and Adams to cards for cash.

    Feels crappy but whatever. This doesn’t free up time to get a look at the kids and I could care less if they save cash.


    21 Aug 18 at 2:57 pm

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