Nationals Arm Race

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

Haren’s 6 week Demotion, er I mean D/L Trip


Haren's struggles earn a well-deserved D/L trip.  Photo via

Haren’s struggles earn a well-deserved D/L trip. Photo via

Little surprise that the Major’s worst starting pitcher Dan Haren was sent to the D/L.  As of 6/24/13, out of 99 qualified Starting Pitchers he currently ranks 99th in ERA, 95th in FIP, 72nd in xFIP (so there’s that) and (interestingly, since it purportedly is the best of the analytical evaluator advanced pitching stats) 48th in SIERA.  As has been noted elsewhere, he’s tied for the league lead in HRs conceded.  The team has lost his last nine starts, and his latest meltdown clearly has forced the team’s hand.  Haren may not be the reason this team is mired at .500 (offense, offense, offense), but he’s clearly not helping either.

So the Nats have found a “soft tissue” issue with Haren (this time?  a “Shoulder Strain”) and have sent him to the D/L.  This isn’t the first time the Nats have used a dubious soft-tissue injury to “stash” an inflexible contract (see Rodriguez, Henry and Wang, Chien-Ming repeated D/L trips over the past two years), and while I kind of laugh at the blatant manipulation of the rules, it benefits the team to be able to remove him from the active roster but not lose him to the open market, so we’ll let it slide.  (btw, how do I know that the team is playing shenanigans with the D/L trip?  Read CSN Chase Hughes‘ tweet about what Haren said when informed he was going on the D/L.   Haren didn’t even know what injury he was supposed to have!).

So what happens next?  Adam Kilgore‘s WP article on the topic seemed to indicate that the Nats and Davey Johnson are not considering either Ross Ohlendorf or Craig Stammen for spot starts.  Which I have a hard time believing frankly; both guys demonstrated their ability to pitch longer outings in the last two days in relief of failed starters.  Ohlendorf has been starting all year and is exactly the kind of 4-A/6th starter that the Nats envisioned him to be when they signed him in the off-season.  Why would the team do something rash like call up Taylor Jordan (as Kilgore suggested and as others are reporting) when we’ve already seen what a more polished and experienced AA-pitcher (Nathan Karns) can do when jumped far above his head too soon?  Yeah, I’m excited about Jordan and what he’s done this year; but I think Ohlendorf or Stammen are better options.  I’d start Ohlendorf on Saturday and see what happens.

Of course, perhaps the Nats talent evaluators are convinced that a guy (Jordan) with exactly 49 innings above A-ball is ready to replace a $13M veteran.   If so, I can’t wait to see him pitch live.  Even if it starts his service time clock too soon, he was a guaranteed 40-man addition ahead of the coming Rule-5 draft anyway based on his domination so far in 2013.  What’s a few extra months at this point?  He’s already past Super-2 status so the team has guaranteed all the control they could get over him.

As for Haren, here’s what we’re likely going to see:  he’ll pay lip service to his “injury,” get an MRI, see a couple of specialists, get a shot.  That’ll take a week or so.  By that time we’ll know whether or not whoever gets his Saturday 6/29/13 start is worth giving another start to.  If Ohlendorf or somebody pitches 6 shutout innings in Haren’s place … then Haren’s going on a long “rehab” assignment in Syracuse.  And frankly, even though he’s making $13M and was supposed to be our former ace acting as a 4th starter FA acquisition, he may struggle to get his starting gig back.

Is it time to pull the plug?  Well, baseball is a performance-based industry.  Haren has just not performed.  Is it truly because he’s pitching through injuries?  Somehow I don’t think so; he was ineffective last year, he’s yet to really have a truly dominant outing this year, and the question is out there as to whether Haren is officially washed up.  For as much as I looked forward to Haren’s time here when we signed him, I now feel like we can’t give him more starts unless he starts throwing shut-down outings in AAA.

PS: read this interesting nugget tooDanny Espinosa is playing short-stop in Syracuse.  You know what this tells me?  The same thing that Kilgore concludes: Espinosa is being showcased so that he can be shopped as a Shortstop on the trade market.  Read the link; I can’t disagree with any of his analysis.  Well, either that or the team is looking to move Ian Desmond and replace him w/ Espinosa.  Ha.

PPS: Also reading reports on NBCSports that Mike Rizzo is burning up the pre-trade market phone lines.  That’s a clear indication that this team is not ready to wave the middling .500 team flag.

5 Responses to 'Haren’s 6 week Demotion, er I mean D/L Trip'

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  1. Todd…

    How are we going to fix the offense? Of course Harper will help alot and maybe that will be enough coupling him with Rendon for the first time. Rendon seems the only really skilled natural hitter (non-streaky) we have on the roster right now. Even most of his outs are solid ab’s. Just amazes me the AB’s and cold streaks this team puts together. Looking at the lineup… Span and Lombo inexplicably have uppercut swings but zero power, that just leads to way too many weak fly balls and pop ups. I would instruct them both to go Brett Butler and change their swings & try to hit solid ground balls every single at bat. Anything over an infielder’s head by these guys is a waste of time. Zimm and Laroche are both prone to horrendous cold streaks where they obviously cannot pick up the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. Zimm’s cold streaks last about 3 weeks and laroche’s a month or more, so when both these guys go cold at the same time the offense is pretty much dead. When they are both hot is the rare times the offense clicks. But both are showing decreasing power and an inability to help even a little when they are in a cold rut. Werth is so average as a hitter now, and we are just prisoners to his contract. Desmond the bright spot, but a pretty one dimensional swing. Suzuki a disaster with the bat. So really no wonder we can’t put big innings together and keep the line moving. Morse was the one .300+ bat we had and he’s gone. So I’m just hoping Rendon and Harp can carry us in 2nd half with consistent production, with the occasional streaky binges from Zimm and Laroche. I’m not expecting much from the others except hoping that their occasional hits can be timely. Really hoping Harper and Ramos can come back truly healthy & productive and stay there. Otherwise I don’t see this current group turning it around.

    Marty C

    25 Jun 13 at 1:09 pm

  2. Marty, Morse is proving he is not a .300 hitter this season. He is just as streaky as Zim and LaRoche.

    A healthy Harper and a healthy Ramos will help if they can both play enough games. Span getting out of his slump will help a lot too with the way Rendon is hitting behind him.

    Here is an interesting stat on Span. Through May 2nd when Harper and Werth were in the lineup behind Span he had a .292/.364/.349 slash line which is fantastic. Since Werth and Harper have been hurt and not in the lineup together Span has dropped to .258/.312/.348. Maybe that is a coincidence but to me it appears Span has been pressing to do too much and that explains his struggles. With Rendon red hot behind him he is 6 for 18 in the last 4 games with a walk so maybe he has adjusted and is going to come out of it. A healthy Harper and Span back to his April form or somewhere close along with Rendon’s bat should help the offense. Harper would be playing the role of the “cortisone” guy this year and it is about the same time as last season when Zim got his shot and the offense took off. Here’s to hoping.


    25 Jun 13 at 3:07 pm

  3. Mr Dowdy says many fine things. Marty; i think the answer to the Nats offensive woes is just time. It’s been since mid April that the whole team has played together, with nearly every part of the lineup suffering from injuries and DL time in the interim. i know we had offensive injuries last year too … but that was covered up by career performances from the bench guys across the board. 2013? Same injuries (probably more so) but no bench production.

    I’ve read rumblings that Rizzo is looking for bats in the trade market, probably to replace underperforming bench players. Ramos is definitely needed to spell Suzuki (who seems to hit well when platooning behind the plate but not when he’s playing 95% of the innings).

    Todd Boss

    25 Jun 13 at 4:23 pm

  4. Well you guys sure are glass half full types. Seems there is a good excuse for everything instead of they’re not great offensive players. First… Morse has been playing hurt all year, but when healthy he has proven to be a high average plus power hitter. Something we don’t have on the roster right now. Morse was banged up a lot first half last year too and our offensive explosion occured when both he and Zimm got back healthy and in form. Not sure we have the same dynamics this year unless Moore turns it around to replace Morse’s production. I’m not sure time fixes everything or that there is an excuse for every player’s weakness. Many catcher’s have a heavy workload but don’t slump like Suzuki. I’m sure you guys thought Danny would suddenly turn it around too… I’d been waiting since 2nd half 2011. We have lots of average or streaky hot hitters. Lot’s of good hitters like I suspect Rendon is, even when they are slumping will slump to .230 for a stretch , still eeking out some hits to keep their heads above water. Our guys tend to slump for long stretches of .120 hitting. Davey did seem to indicate that Moore would be platooning with Laroche for the left handers this week. I found that very interesting. I’m a big fan but I can’t keep making excuses for what has been a historically bad offense. This is 2 years in a row now that the offense has been pathetic for half a season at least. I’ll be estatic if they suddenly turn it around but am more counting on Harper to carry them on his back.

    Marty C

    25 Jun 13 at 7:53 pm

  5. Trust me Marty, I was not a fan of the jettisoning of Morse and you can clearly see how his lack of offense has hurt the team. He was basically replaced in the lineup by Span, so we traded a guy with zero power at the top of the order for a clean-up quality hitter with 11 homers right now.

    fun fact: Morse’s OBP right now is higher than Spans.

    One of my oft-repeated mantras is this: I believe you can “hide” offense at LF and at 1B at the expense of defense. However, Rizzo has repeatedly shown that he has no patience for sub-par defenders and has gone to great pains to trade them ( Willingham and Morse) or to not pursue them once their contracts ended (Dunn). I thought the team should have kept Harper in center, kept Morse in left, re-signed Laroche. But that’s not the way they went, and it cost them their best starting prospect pitcher, one who likely would have given them a better spot start than Karns did.

    Another unspoken issue: I really feel that Morse’s clubhouse presence is missed. Without him, there just doesn’t seem to be joy in the dugout. The veteran guys are these uber serious no nonsense guys (LaRoche, Werth, Zimmerman).

    Todd Boss

    26 Jun 13 at 10:36 am

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