Nationals Arm Race

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

Pujols 500th home-run ball haul: enough?


Too bad he probably goes into the HoF in an Angels uniform.  Photo: unknown via

Too bad he probably goes into the HoF in an Angels uniform. Photo: unknown via

As I watched soon-to-be-demoted-as-soon-as-Doug-Fister-can-return-please-hurry-back Taylor Jordan give up the second moon-ball home run to Albert Pujols on the night, I thought to myself, “wow, I wonder what i’d hold out for if I caught his 500th home run?”

Here’s the answer, thanks to Scott Allen and the DC Sports Bog on WP.  The guy who caught the ball is giving it back to Pujols for … nothing.

Now that I have a kid, I’m sure i’d want some cool stuff for his memory books.  I’d at least want a custom-message signed ball (that’s my goal one-day, to head up to cooperstown with a bunch of 50s and 100s in my pocket and hit the circuit of Hall-of-Famers on the signature series for custom-signed baseballs).   In total, I’d probably settle for some signed jerseys and baseballs and what not.  I mean, hey, that ball may have been worth thousands on the auction market, but its better karma to just return it to the hitter, right?

Oh, and since this is a Nationals blog, supposedly focused on pitching, all I have to say about this team can be summed up in some bullet-points for now:

  • 6.23: that’s Jordan’s current ERA.  And unlike Strasburg‘s “unlucky” high ERA (Stras’ FIP is a miniscule 2.58, the best on the team, proof of why you should probably ignore both ERA and ERA+), Jordan’s clearly not an effective starter right now.  I think the 5th starter competition is over, especially after Tanner Roark‘s excellent outing the night before … which was completely wasted by…
  • Tyler Clippard, who may not have bad numbers so far but boy he has struggled.  You just can’t have a 1.5 whip as an 8th inning/high leverage guy.  Maybe its time to switch him and Drew Storen in the bullpen pecking order (you know, since so far he looks basically unhittable, giving up just 2 baserunners in 7 1/3 innings).
  • 8-1: that’s the Nats record against crummy teams.
  • 3-9; that’s the Nats record against “good” teams so far.  I sense a pattern.

I’m kind of concerned right now.  It doesn’t really help that the teams’ #2 and #4 hitters from opening-day are on the D/L.  But it also doesn’t help that, once again, Mike Rizzo‘s vaunted “lead-off” hitter Denard Span is barely batting above the frigging mendoza line yet continues to be plugged in at lead-off, where he can maximize the damage he does to run expectancy as he scuffles along with his sub .300 OBP.  How long before Matt Williams just sticks him at the #8 spot where he should have been most of last year and starts using hitters at lead-off who can, you know, hit?



8 Responses to 'Pujols 500th home-run ball haul: enough?'

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  1. I think the “crummy” vs. “good” team records is a bit misleading, because we don’t yet know who the crummy teams really are. We think the Marlins and the Mets are terrible, but when they play teams other than the Nats the Mets have done pretty well: they are 10-7 against teams other than the Nats, including taking 2 of 3 from the Reds, splitting 6 with the Braves and so far splitting 2 with the Cardinals. The Marlins have gone 9-6 against teams other than the Nationals, including splitting two with the Braves. The Nats’ taking 8 of 9 from those two teams isn’t a gimme at all.

    Of course, we don’t yet know whether the Angels are really good or not either. There’s a long way to go yet. My point is that the “pattern” suffers from two classic weaknesses. First, of course, is [never get into a land war in Asia] small sample size. But second, we don’t yet know who the good teams actually are, not completely.

    John C.

    23 Apr 14 at 10:54 am

  2. There was one game (maybe two), where Rendon was batting leadoff. I thought, “now THIS makes sense.” But no. They immediately went back to the random lineup generator machine that must be stashed in the clubhouse. I keep hoping Taylor or Goodwin will hit .400 and allow them to ditch Span sooner rather than later.


    23 Apr 14 at 1:38 pm

  3. Put me also in the “kinda concerned” camp right now, as this season just feels too much like last season (high expectations, Braves get off to fast start and dominate us, some injuries & slumps get us into a hole early, etc.). Obviously not too late yet, and last night they got a nice (lucky) comeback win, but they definitely need to have the heart of the lineup (Desmond, Werth & Harper) step up while we wait for Zim & Ramos to get back.


    24 Apr 14 at 7:05 am

  4. Fair enough criticism of the good vs bad team issue, which is kind of why I buried it in another topic instead of being its own post. But if you’re not concerned with our performance thus far against Atlanta then … well, maybe you’re more of an optimist than me. I agree with DaveB: we may be just a few weeks in, but this is starting to look a LOT like last year. Nats scuffling along, patching holes and sticking their thumbs in the dyke to maintain their heads just at or above .500.

    Todd Boss

    24 Apr 14 at 8:28 am

  5. Well, I’m certainly concerned about how they’ve performed against Atlanta, mostly because I think that there is a risk that it is in the player’s heads at this point (there’s now way of knowing that for certain; I think it’s safe to say that it’s in most fan’s heads at this point! But I’m not worried that this is “Groundhog Day.”

    In fact, to me the “is this 2013 redux?” narrative is fairly silly. The 2014 team is very different, not just in particulars (ALR and Espinosa are hitting, Harper isn’t, Storen is excellent, Haren and Tracy aren’t here, etc.) and in general (the starting pitching was GREAT early last year and has been mediocre this year; the offense, especially Rendon, have flashed signs of actual competence; the bench has been OK versus an absolute disaster). More importantly, to me the feel of the team is completely different. Offensively I always feel like the 2014 Nats are never truly out of a game because they are capable of battling back. In 2013 the team was almost inert when playing from behind. Not the 2014 team. It’s not just last night – they’ve scrapped back from multi-run deficits several times already. There’s none of the “don’t worry, it’s early, we’ll turn it on” narratives from the players or management. Which is both good and bad, I suppose, because if they get tight and play tight it can be as bad as taking the Division for granted.

    Now, I obviously don’t know how the narrative will end – I can plausibly create scenarios that have the team ending up at 80 wins, or 100. But even if they end up 86-76 again, it’s not the same team with the same script.

    John C.

    24 Apr 14 at 12:18 pm

  6. Sure, there is cause for concern, but I think that it needs to be thought of through a prism of ‘should they make a change’, and I think the answer is no, at least not yet.

    Pitching – it feels like it has underperformed, but I’d bet on a positive regression. Plus, there really isn’t anyone else in the minors that is better than what we have up here, and the trade market would be prohibitive, so I think that they just go with what they have. And while I agree that Jordan needs to go down to AAA, I haven’t given up on him. I think that it is a matter of command, and you could look at some of his peripherals and see some positives.

    Offense – It is funny how much your expectations factor in to how you feel about something. I agree with John C that the offense has been more positive than negative, and better than the pitching. Yet they are below average in offense (18th) and top 10 in pitching (10th).

    Bench – I thought that this might be an area to potentially upgrade, but overall it hasn’t been bad. Espy, Lobo and Walters have been good contributors. McLouth and Frandsen haven’t but I think that it is reasonable to think McLouth, at least, is better than what he has shown. Maybe you try to add someone better in the Hairston/Moore spot.

    Defense – this has been the killer, imo, but other than hoping the incumbents play better, how do you fix it without messing with the offense? And it is on track to get worse, not better, when Zim returns. This is the head scratcher, because I think that it has had a huge impact.


    24 Apr 14 at 2:26 pm

  7. John … I certainly agree that this season isn’t exactly like 2013, but I’m reminded of the old saying “history never repeats itself … but often it rhymes”. Just as I worry that the Braves have “gotten into the heads” of the Nats, I’m starting to worry that the flow of the season will get into their heads as well (“here we go again”). Certainly not such that I would “make a change” yet, but I think MW’s big challenge will be to figure out how to strike the balance between keeping them from pressing too hard as they start to feel they are underachieving and getting in a hole, while still making any needed adjustments before it’s too late. My early sense/worry is that he is going to try to “tinker” too much, but hopefully they’ll be able to settle in as the season moves along.


    24 Apr 14 at 8:45 pm

  8. I realize 2014 isn’t 2013. But I stand by what I said earlier. One part of the team steps up, another part steps back. We ditch Haren for Fister, Fister hits the D/L and his replacement Jordan posts a 6+ ERA. Zimmerman’s bat looks great but his arm looks as bad as ever. Espinosa turns out not to be the lost cause we thought he was, but Span isn’t hitting his weight. Storen looks fixed but Clippard looks completely broken. Rendon looks awesome and the bench looks … god-awful (McClouth is 2 for 29!! HE reminds me of the Mackowiak signing right now; he looks completely overpowered and lost at the plate).

    Todd Boss

    25 Apr 14 at 3:13 pm

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