Nationals Arm Race

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

My Answers to Boswell’s Chat Questions 6/27/11


As one may expect, Boswell's latest chat was filled with Riggleman questions. Photo unknown credit.

In the wake of the Jim Riggleman debacle, I’m guessing that Boswell fields and opines a lot on Riggleman.  Boswell and I differ in our opinions of Riggleman as a manager, and I found it telling that Riggleman noted on a radio show last week that Boswell had never interviewed him (a point refuted by Boswell below).  That would put a severe damper on Boswell’s opinions of Riggleman in my mind; if you don’t have the courtesy to interview the subject of multiple highly critical columns and op-ed pieces, then how can you claim 100% credibility?  Now i’m not sure who to believe, since Boswell reports near daily conversations with Riggleman.  Perhaps Riggleman meant that the two had never talked about one particular topic.

Regardless, here’s Boswell’s 6/27/11 chat.  As always, I read the question, write my own answer then interpret Boswell’s answer.  All questions are paraphrased from the chatroom for clarity here.

Q: Given the latest string of performances, should the Nats be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
A: Clearly their amazing run has reversed my answer to this question from a few weeks ago.  Now, if the team continues at a 111-win pace (as was noted today on twitter … the team’s form in the past 14 games would put them on a 111-win pace for a full season), then they will factor into the wild card race amazingly.  If you’re in the WC race, you are buyers at the deadline.  If you have a shot at the playoffs, then you take that shot.  (Boswell thinks they’ll be “non-sellers,” preferring to stand pat b/c they have no obvious holes.  A fair assessment of the team right now).

Q: Did the Nats upgrade at Manager?
A: Well, clearly yes.  Even if Davey Johnson turns out to be a Joe Gibbs-esque over the hill and out of touch (something I really don’t believe happens in this slower-moving strategic sport versus the fast advances of the pro football game), he will command more respect than Riggleman could ever expect.  But I think the team was exposed in a certain way throughout this whole Riggleman affair.  Riggleman may go down as the man who made the career-suicide move, but Rizzo is not blameless here.  You couldn’t find time to spend an hour with your most important subordinate to discuss contract status?  And the owners clearly are too-hands off here; I agree with the sentiment of Adam Kilgore who wrote a post that essentially said that this situation wouldn’t have happened if Stan Kasten was still here.  That’s not a great endorsement of the state of your front office right now.  (Boswell actually compliments Riggleman in his answer.).

Q: Why not just leave Bernadina in leadoff instead of all these lineup experiments?
A: Good question.  Its hard to guess what will happen tomorrow (with a new manager) based on what happened yesterday (with the old manager).  Personal opinion; batting a pitcher 8th is asinine, Bernadina should be batting leadoff until Desmond either figures out how to hit or we acquire a replacement, and you leave Werth in a power-hitting position where he should be.  Simple as that. Boswell says Bernadina should be leading off and cites his defense as a reason to include him.

Q: What does Boswell think about Riggleman’s pointed statements about him to the press?

A: Wow, can’t wait to read this answer.  I’m guessing Boswell will trash him, again.  (Boswell refutes Riggleman’s comments, that I alluded to above, about how he was never interviewed by Boswell.  Hmm.  Otherwise Boswell deflects some of Riggleman’s comments and actually excuses his statements as being heat of the moment.  Interesting.

Q: What changes will Davey Johnson institute on this team?
A: No idea.  Johnson certainly was a master strategist and depends on matchups and stats, so perhaps we’ll see more platooning.  He’s old-school, so perhaps we’ll see pitchers going longer into games and less bullpen churn.

Q: Is the Werth-Leadoff and Pitcher-8th experiment dead?

A: Probably.  Honestly it smacked of desperation from Riggleman, though I’d be desperate too if my $126M hitter was batting in the .220s.

Q: Is small-ball dead (Nats were 2nd in NL in sac bunts)?

A: I doubt it; its still the National league.  And I don’t completely blame sac bunting on Riggleman.  I’ve seen our struggling hitters gladly take a sac bunt instead of trying to get a hit when they’ve been down.  Johnson is still an old-school manager.

Q: Which player benefits the most from Johnson’s arrival?

A: I’d guess Jayson Werth, who clearly was fed up with Riggleman and should have more respect for Johnson.

Q: Does Johnson’s arrival raise expectations for this team for the season?

A: Yeah unfortunately.  Or fortunately, who knows.  For me, if you’re not going to make the playoffs I’d rather finish dead last and get higher draft picks.  There’s not a lot of value in winning 78 games year after year.  I still think .500 is a great goal for this squad.

(Boswell punted on these last 5 questions, saying they’d all be addressed in his 6/28 column).

Q: Did ownership somehow derail the team, or were they responsible for Riggleman’s departure by being cheap?

A: I’m not going to blame the owners for being cheap, despite Riggleman’s contract paying him 2nd to last in the league.  I will blame Rizzo for letting him hang on the option and failing to be a professional and just grant the guy a meeting.  (Boswell says that ownership gets some blame here… but then explains why they shouldn’t since Riggleman signed the contract and that’s that)

Q: How is the bullpen holding up?  When will Zimmermann be shutdown for the season on innings limits?

A: I think the bullpen is starting to fray.  Kimball, Slaten out, Clippard with a “tired arm” and Burnett continuing to blow leads.  Storen got hammered the other night too.  Mattheus has shown that he’s a nice mid-season callup, and we have other such arms in AAA that we can try out soon (Mandel, Wilkie).

Zimmermann may be done sooner than we think.  He’s at 94 innings now, is averaging 6 1/3 per start, and if you think 150 is his limit then he’s only got 8-9 more starts.  That’s only going to take us to the end of July.  (boswell doesn’t really answer, just notes that Storen is on pace to appear in 80 games, which is ridiculous for a high-end closer).

Conclusion: Boswell seems to really soften his opinion on Riggleman, gives him many compliments throughout.

Written by Todd Boss

June 29th, 2011 at 10:03 am

2 Responses to 'My Answers to Boswell’s Chat Questions 6/27/11'

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  1. I’m usually a big fan of Boswell, but this season when he’s talking Nats, he’s been drinking the Kool Aid since day one.
    When Rizzo said that 1st base was a important defensive position (insert laughter here), Boswell never questioned it.
    What Rizzo’s best at, draft & development, Boz doesn’t follow and knows nothing about. When Rizzo falters at the major league level, he just drinks more Kool Ais.

    Mark L

    30 Jun 11 at 5:43 pm

  2. I think defense is important ……. but not at the expense of gutting your offense. Here’s a quick look at runs scored and runs against for this team over the past 4 years (2011 projected)

    2011: 628 runs, 620 against (lost Dunn & Willingham, but both rotation and bullpen improved)
    2010: 655 runs, 742 allowed (bench very weak, bullpen improved)
    2009: 710 runs, 874 allowed (added Dunn, Willingham, healthy Johnson)
    2008: 641 runs, 825 allowed

    so in 2011, we’re 90 runs worse than 2009, but our pitching is more than 250 runs better. As it stands, it really seems like Dunn has bottomed out; how much of that you attribute to switching teams and leagues and whether or not you think he would have batted like that for us is debatable. Likewise with Willingham; he’s batting .231 and is again on the DL. So maybe we did what we needed to do.

    As for Boswell …. i think he’s just not consistent with his opinions on things. I guess it comes to that.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 11 at 4:11 pm

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