Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s Inbox 5/23/13 Edition


Zimmerman's arm issues keep comingup. Photo AP via

I like Ladson‘s Inbox.  He takes questions that the “everyman” Nats fan seems to be asking.  They usually hit upon the big issues facing the club.   On the downside, they usually address issues we’ve already covered more than once in posts and comments.   For those repeat questions we’ll try to use links elsewhere and short answers.  Here’s the 5/23/13 edition.   Lets see what we got this week.

Q: Manager Davey Johnson is not worried about Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing errors. Do you think it’s an area of concern?

A: Definitely territory we’ve covered.   Short answer: yes i’m worried, no there’s no place to move him thanks to LaRoche locking up 1B for this year and next, so the Nats are basically stuck.  Ladson says some things that I have a problem with.  He says that he’s not concerned (disagree) and that Zimmerman’s shoulder “isn’t 100% healthy.”  I call utter Bullsh*t on that; the team clearly stated at the time of the surgery that it was just a few weeks of healing (easily google-able). Yet here we are at the end of May, some 8 months onward from this surgery and he’s still not healthy??  No way; that’s an excuse we need to shelve.  Lastly Ladson says that “nobody else can play 3B like Zimmerman.”  Oh, you mean nobody else can throw away simple routine plays over and over like Zimmerman??  Anthony Rendon is a known defensive wizard, every scout knows it, and more than one have said the team should make the switch sooner than later.  You know, “scouts” as in “professionals who watch the guys play baseball” and are paid to know these things.  *sigh*

Q: Danny Espinosa had a lot of strikeouts last year and is below the Mendoza Line so far this year. Do you think Steve Lombardozzi could take over the starting spot?

A: More oft discussed territory.  Short answer: Yes Espinosa needs to be benched.  No Lombardozzi isn’t the greatest replacement; he’s significantly weaker in the field, has far less power and isn’t hitting at all in 2013 either.  I believe the team needs to D/L Espinosa and fix his shoulder and call up Rendon.  Ladson says more things I disagree with, saying that Espinosa defense is so good he should stay in the lineup.  Sorry; he’s a 2nd baseman.  You can sacrifice offense at some positions on the field but not at 2B in the modern game.  He also thinks Espinosa is going to turn it around (I don’t).  He also says he “likes” Lombardozzi in left field.  I don’t; that’s a waste of a position that should be providing 25-30 homer power for this team.  You know, power like what Michael Morse or Josh Willingham provide.  Oh those guys; yeah they were run out of town because they were suspect defensively and Mike Rizzo is hell bent on fielding a team of track stars.  *grrr*

Q: Do you think Tyler Moore could benefit from getting regular playing time with Triple-A Syracuse?

A: A good question.  I am in the “relatively surprised” camp to see how badly Tyler Moore is hitting this year.  How do you go from a 125 OPS+ to a 5 (as in five) OPS+ in a year’s time??  He’s not helping the team, he’s wasting a bench spot at this point, and yes he needs to go to AAA to sort things out.  He’s 8 for 66 with 27 strikeouts; he’s not an option off the bench at this point.  Call up Chris Marrero or Micah Owings if you are looking for some LF pop.  Uber positive Ladson also thinks Moore is going to turn it around.  I guess he thinks that EVERY Nats player who is hitting poorly right now is magically going to turn things around.  We should just continue hitting .220 as a team waiting for everyone to get out of their slumps.  You have AAA teams for exactly this reason; to allow younger players who are struggling to work out issues playing full time, instead of getting 1-2 ABs/week like Moore is getting right now.

Q: Do you think it’s appropriate for the Nationals to play Michael Morse’s walk-up song, “Take On Me,” as a seventh-inning stretch song? Is that a bad omen?

A: I think its a very nice tribute to a player in Morse who was a fan favorite and who a lot of us didn’t want to see go.  Nothing inappropriate there.  In fact, I hope the Mariners come back to Washington to get the fans here a chance to pay him the respect he is owed for his contributions here.  Ladson answers the question without even mentioning Morse??  There’s a reason that song is played right now and it isn’t because its a cool 80s song.

26 Responses to 'Ladson’s Inbox 5/23/13 Edition'

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  1. Geez, give it a rest on the Hammer and the Beast. If Werth is healthy, there’s no place for them to even play unless you bench LaRoche, who since May 1 has been (with Harper) about the only National who is actually hitting. Even if the team had hung onto Willingham, he would have been a free agent two years ago and there’s no guarantee that he’d be with the ballclub at all. Which, for Morse, is one reason why he was dealt – that the team had no place to play him unless someone got hurt and that he’s about to become a free agent. And all three arms they got for him have been doing anywhere from OK (Cole) to really, really well (Krol, Treinen). Unlike Morse, those players are all under team control for years.

    IMMM too, but to just say that Rizzo has a grudge against left fielders with thump in their bat ignores the fact that Tyler Moore was supposed to be exactly that this year. They were open about the fact that one reason they felt comfortable dealing Morse was because felt they had a guy with virtually the same skill set in Moore. So now you’re mad because Rizzo didn’t see that coming? Neither did some other baseball experts:

    “I am in the “relatively surprised” camp to see how badly Tyler Moore is hitting this year. How do you go from a 125 OPS+ to a 5 (as in five) OPS+ in a year’s time??”

    John C.

    24 May 13 at 6:14 pm

  2. I agree that it is time to eliminate the injury excuse from Zim’s throwing discussion. He throws hard and accurately when rushed, questioning how injured it can be.

    That is not a comforting conclusion: injuries can be overcome with rest and/or treatment. Psychological problems are much trickier.

    I am still fine with Rizzo’s offseason plan. I think most of the moves were plausible when made. They haven’t worked, though, so the question becomes when do you stop just giving it time to regress to the mean, and accept that you were wrong and come up with something else? Tyler Moore and Espy are the two poster children for this. Moore had an excellent 2012, but was that the outlier, or is this? He hit a lot of homers in the minors, but was never considered a top prospect nationally due to contact and walk rate issues. So I am fine coming into this year with him expected to get 300+ ABs but when he starts off this badly, there should be a fallback plan. It will be interesting to see how Rizzo reacts to this start, not just the mediocre play but how they are doing it.

    I have a hard time faulting him for most of the bullpen issues. I dont think anyone could forsee how almost everyone has performed noticeably worse than expectations. Even Duke and HRod. Your points are good ones, but at most I question him for keeping two marginal guys. One marginal guy – fine, everyone has that and it shouldn’t be too hard to get past that. Two guys, when everyone else is below par, well now we need another fallback plan. Fortunately, with Garcia, Davis, Karns, Romero, we have some in house options that are worth a look see.


    24 May 13 at 6:40 pm

  3. I’m not sure why Ladson mentions Lombo an left field but I also think the point you keep making about left field being a power spot is moot. If the team is healthy Werth and Harper profile as adequate or better as corner outfielders. Even Moore profiles as the type of guy you “hide” in left.

    I agree Moore needs to go down and we’ve been discussing Espy needing to be DLed all week. It makes no sense to keep him active, especially now that they are saying he has been playing with a broken wrist on top of his shoulder injury. There are healthy options in the minors be it Kobernus, Walters or Rendon once his wisdom teeth are taken care of. I don’t understand why espy is still active, amazing glove or not.


    24 May 13 at 10:30 pm

  4. Wally–I fault the team for sticking so long with guys who are obviously not geting done. Next week the season hits its one-third mark, which is more than enough time for any player to break out of a slump is they are going to (fortunately, it looks like LaRoche has).

    As for those relievers you mentioned, Garcia hasn’t yet thrown a pitch in a game, Karns hase been getting lit up at AA and Romero is hurt. The only plausible call up is Davis, who Rizzo has for some reason opted to leave at Syracuse in lieu of Yunesky Maya–and we saw how well THAT worked out the other night.

    No, I don’t plan the plan for the season. I blame the pigheadedness that is refusing to alter it even one iota.


    24 May 13 at 10:31 pm

  5. Maya DFA’d, Kobernus called up.

    John C.

    24 May 13 at 10:57 pm

  6. BDrube, Maya was called up because they need a long reliever to eat up innings in an emergency. Sadly he was predictable and as bad as ever but it was a blatantly short term move as demonstrated by his DFA. The team probably didn’t call up Davis simply because it was only going to be for a few days and if they sent him back down he would have to wait 10 more days before being eligible to be recalled. I have a feeling he will be up sooner rather than later though as HRod and Duke have to be on short leashes at this point.


    25 May 13 at 4:28 pm

  7. Maya DFA: about time. 3 MLB stints, 3 awful hammerings each time. I’ll bet a dollar nobody picks him up and he’s outrighted to Syracuse.

    Kobernus: a pleasant surprise. That callup says one thing to me: utility backup player until Espinosa is healthy. If they wanted someone to actually play, they’d have called back up Rendon. Rizzo was quoted as saying Rendon needs to be in AA b/c they throw harder and I guess they thought he was overmatched by the MLB velocity. I’m guessing he’s up permanently post all star break. Or perhaps whenever they finally pull the plug on Espinosa and just 60-day DL him.

    Duke: probably next to go. If Abad looks anything close to serviceable Duke is looking at a DFA too. After that maybe Davis gets a shot if/when the team finally runs out of patience with Henry Rodriguez (though in Hrod’s defense he has looked slightly better as of late). And then there’s Garcia, who is better than all of them. Mattheus couldn’t have picked a worse time to break his own hand … he may not get back in the lineup anytime soon if someone ably takes his place.

    Todd Boss

    26 May 13 at 10:33 am

  8. PDowdy – you called the Maya transaction. If it gets him out of the org, I am content.

    Rizzo was quoted as saying Rendon needs to be in AA b/c they throw harder and I guess they thought he was overmatched by the MLB velocity. I don’t remember this quote, but it is interesting. I still think a longer Rendon call up is tied to his proving he can handle 2B or a Zim injury, but time will tell.

    If Tyler Moore was hitting, I bet Harper would get a two week DL stint to heal his body. Right now, I think they just are doing anything to avoid losing him, but the guy is a walking MASH unit.


    26 May 13 at 10:54 pm

  9. Saw today that Maya cleared waivers (no surprise) and is officially outrighted off the 40-man in Syracuse. So that’s that; I think he’ll be hard pressed to find anything but minor league contracts next year. Hey, at least he made a bit of cash.

    Todd Boss

    27 May 13 at 3:30 pm

  10. No shock about Maya. He’s as bad now as when they picked him up. It would be a shame to see Duke DFA’d, he was supposed to be the next golden boy out of Syracuse but I guess it goes to show that hype is was it is; hollow conjecture based on the phase of the moon and time of high tide.

    Manager Davey Johnson doesn’t seem to be worried about anything which has me worried if he’s still alive. That west coast series was laughably bad and as soon as it became evident Harper was going to miss some time, the Nats should have demoted Espinosa to Syracuse, brought up Rendon and sent Zimmerman somewhere to try to get his act together. How much worse could it have been at that point and who knows, they might have an improved Zimmerman who wouldn’t have pulled yet another error on yet another routine play yesterday against the O’s, they might have better than Lombardozzi manning 2B and Harper and LaRoche might be able to hit more than a solo home run. Instead, Manager Davey Johnson (I continue to phrase it that way so I don’t forget that he IS the manager) says he isn’t worried and the answer to their problems is for him to not shave. Yay Davey, way to take the bull by the horns!

    Oh…and it’s revealed that Espinosa has been playing the past few weeks with a bad wrist or hand or whatever on top of everything else, so he’s even worse than anyone thought AND a bigger liar than anyone knew. How does he keep his job?

    At this point I’m pretty convinced the Nationals’ biggest problem isn’t Espinosa or Zimmerman or Haren or Harper or Werth or Lombardozzi or Moore…it’s Davey “What, Me Worry?” Johnson and his game-face-at-all-costs attitude. I kind of envy Phillies fans, they went into this season knowing what to expect and Charlie really said nothing to the contrary. “Yep, this year’s gonna suck, come back next year”. And they’ve actually exceeded those expectations. Rizzo and Johnson spent the offseason talking about the Nationals as if they’d signed Jesus himself and while we watch a bunch of guys in similiar uniforms flounder around on a baseball field, we hear this constant line of drivel from team management as if what we just saw with our own eyes didn’t really happen. Awesome.


    28 May 13 at 11:53 am

  11. Well, Mark, between choice of internet commentator and borderline HoF manager, Davey’s judgment and techniques get a big head start for me. YMMV.

    With Harper out, right now the Nats have a total of two quality hitters in their lineup – Zimmerman and LaRoche. You want to demote Zimmerman. I say live with his defense because the need his bat far more than any improvement in defense would be. The west coast trip was “laughably bad?” They were 4-6 on a ten game trip. That’s not good, but if you’ve been watching baseball for more than a couple of months you’d know that a 4-6 road trip is hardly a catastrophe.

    And 98% of the anointing from on high expectation talk came from commentators (internet, network media and blogosphere) who are now largely the same commentators whining that their expectations are not being met. Rizzo said he liked their roster. Davey did say “World Series or Bust,” but what was he supposed to say? “Gee, I hope we’re competitive?” If he had said that and they scuffled, he would have been castigated for not instilling confidence. Panicking doesn’t work well in baseball – name for me a single example where kicking the table over and blowing up the roster in May led to a WS title. And putting on sackcloth and ashes isn’t an alternative either. So what you get is a game face and just keeping on keeping on. Because there are LOTS of teams that have done just that through early struggles and won titles. Just last year at this point the Giants were 27-24 (to the Nats’ 26-25) and were 5.5 games out of first (to the Nats’ 4.5). They turned out OK.

    John C.

    28 May 13 at 12:55 pm

  12. Mark after reading your post I feel like the Nationals must be 10 games under .500 and 20 out of first place.

    The fact of the matter is that they have not played up to their potential but they are still over .500 and only 4.5 back with a 3 game series against the 1st place team this weekend. I won’t panic until the results are in at the end of the week. If they go in and sweep the Braves it is a brand new year. If they get swept it is panic mode. 2 out of 3 is good 1 out of 3 doesn’t really kill you.

    I am doing pretty good with roster moves lately with the Maya DFA and the Karns call up as the first starter called up from the minors. If only I could predict a 6 game winning streak starting tonight haha.


    28 May 13 at 12:59 pm

  13. Johnson as laissez faire manager; I’m complained plenty about his use of the bullpen and starters so far. For good or bad he shows a ton of patience with players, especially with Espinosa. Despite Espinosa’s poor offense, he remains a stellar defensive player which is probably why he hasn’t been sent to the D/L woodshed just quite yet.

    I’m not going to kill the Nats for that West Coast trip either: losing to Kershaw, Grienke and Cain isn’t exactly a hard thing to do even for the best teams. We knew that the team would likely lose Haren and Duke’s starts in SF and they did; the other two SF games were both close and could have gone either way.

    Karns callup reeks of 40-man necessitated move; other wise we’d have brought up Ohlendorf or Rosenbaum. Ohlehdorf has had a couple good starts in a row and Rosenbaum is the best AAA starter all year. But i’m not complaining too much; i am dying to see what Karns can do.

    I posted earlier in the season about Nats tough early schedule, thoughts echoed by Boswell over the weekend. So we’ll repeat here; call me at the end of June. They have a ridiculously easy june and july. If htey don’t go 18-10 or 20-8 in June, then we’ll know that this team doesn’t have what it takes. I’ll take .500 against a mostly playoff-team filled schedule.

    Todd Boss

    28 May 13 at 1:28 pm

  14. Agree with PDowdy on the moves that they are finally making. I said earlier that I’d keep Karns up all year in the pen, once Det is back (even if he bombs out tonight). I think that would be an easier adjustment for him. I know that is a contrarian view.

    I wouldn’t give up on Zim, they clearly need him. I would, however, look to pick up a 4th OF type – a good bat-type, and I would sacrifice the D for it. I don’t think TMo can get out of his slump at the MLB level – he needs to spend a month or two down in Syracuse playing every day. Same could be said for Bernie, but I think he is out of options. And there is no reason to expect Werth and Harper to play everyday once they get back, so there are a fairly large amount of OF ABs to be had. I hear this guy Morse in SEA has a little pop ….


    28 May 13 at 1:32 pm

  15. Wally, Tyler is starting to show signs of live. Over the long weekend he went 4 for 13 with 3 walks. He didn’t look too hot after his first at bat yesterday but the 3 walks are a sign that he is settling in some finally in my opinion. I wouldn’t argue though if they sent him down and brought up Marrero for awhile. Marrero’s power stroke seems to be there this year as he has 10 homers in the minors. I think they would be hard pressed to trade for anyone of value right now when all but about 3 teams are still somewhat in the hunt and there aren’t a lot of good pieces on those teams that are already out.

    Todd, 40-man necessitated or not I am glad it is Karns. Like you said I am very interested to see him and am glad it is him for a start or 2 over a retread like Young or Ohlendorf. If he has a good debut it gives the team a little more confidence they have a guy who can come up like Lannan did last year.


    28 May 13 at 4:00 pm

  16. How good is it to see names like Solis and Purke popping up as scheduled starters. I believe Purke starts for Hagerstown tomorrow. With Taylor Jordan and Karns already back pitching well (for the most part) and those 2 coming back the pitching depth could change in a hurry.


    28 May 13 at 4:03 pm

  17. Karns: I guess if he was doing better in AA overall i’d be more on board with it. Dont’ get me wrong; i’m excited to see him on the mound, going against another newbie in Gausman (who I think is fantastic, his first start’s stat-line not withstanding). With the Nats whiff-happy lineup i can see Gausman getting 12 K’s tonight.

    I would love nothing more to see a 6ip 2run 8K performance from karns, even if it is a loss.

    Marrero vs MOore: totally agree, do a like-for-like switch to get Moore some AAA At-bats to work on his swing.

    Todd Boss

    28 May 13 at 4:51 pm

  18. Solis/Purke: totally agree. Solis already is putting in nice looking stat lines. Purke needs to show us something. Meanwhile I need Cole to start being more consistent, and I can’t wait for Giolito to throw a few innings. Robbie Ray is back on track. Agree on Jordan; if he continues his run in AA suddenly we’ve got an arm that’s materialized out of nowhere.

    Todd Boss

    28 May 13 at 4:55 pm

  19. Pdowdy – something still seems off with TMo. I think it is the power. I could take rhe strikeouts if he went yard every 15 PAs or so. I still think that they could get a DeJesus type for a not prohibitive cost. I’d do it because the mediocre start leaves less room for error along the way, and we can’t afford the complete lack of production from the spare OFs.


    28 May 13 at 4:55 pm

  20. Agree on the pitchers. If the injured guys return to their prospect luster, their farm system will be deep again. Looking forward to seeing (reading) how Purke does. I missed that he was starting tomorrow.


    28 May 13 at 4:58 pm

  21. Wally, the double yesterday and the ball he hit to the track against the Phil’s are positive signs. Power is usually the last thing to come back after a slump. Look at how LaRoche and Zimmerman got going with singles then started hitting doubles and homers. Again though I would be perfectly fine with him going down.

    I was looking at the Nats schedule after Todd reiterated how they have an easy stretch coming. I find it quite interesting that 17 of their last 32 are against the Mets and Marlins. Also a lot of games against the Phil’s in that stretch and who knows what that team looks like if they are out of contention at the deadline. They do end with the Cards and DBacks but it is still a light ending after a tough start.


    28 May 13 at 7:47 pm

  22. Good call Wally. I forgot about the Cubs outfielders. Guess they could conceivably end up trading any of Soriano (too expensive), DeJesus, Hairston or Scheirholtz. I would put my money on a guy like Scheirholtz since he is cheap and on a 1 year deal if the Nats target a player like that. I’m not positive how much money is left to get a guy like Dejesus who is making $6.5m or so vs the $2.5 of Scheirholtz.


    28 May 13 at 7:55 pm

  23. PDowdy – you da man! I stand corrected, maybe TMo is back.


    28 May 13 at 9:37 pm

  24. Man, now Bernie. I need to bad mouth these guys more often.

    Storen just doesn’t have it any more. We need to bring up Ian Krol.


    28 May 13 at 9:39 pm

  25. Hahaha. It took me a second to figure out why you were talking about Storen when he isn’t in the game. Lol

    How big would a useful T-Mo be right now?


    28 May 13 at 10:17 pm

  26. Keep talking bad Wally! That’s the best Drew has looked all year.


    28 May 13 at 10:28 pm

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