Nationals Arm Race

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

Ask Ladson 9/23/16


Turner is on everyone's mind.  photo via

Turner is on everyone’s mind. photo via

I know my “Fantasy post-mortem” post didn’t move the needle; luckily Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson posted another inbox!  2nd one in two weeks!

Here’s how I would have answered these questions, if I was in a position to have random fans email me questions all the time 🙂

Q: Is Trea Turner eligible for the National League Rookie of the Year Award? If he is, he should be the winner.

A: Absolutely Trea Turner is eligible.  Is he going to win?  Uh… better go check the season that Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager just had.  Turner probably finishes 2nd or 3rd.  If I had a vote, I’d probably go Seager, Kenta Maeda, Turner, Trevor Story and then Aledmys Diaz to round out the top 5.  Turner has been awesome no doubt, but Seager is an MVP candidate and did it all year.  If Turner had done what he has been doing for the full season?  Yeah he’d probably be at a Mike Trout level of production and we’d be having a far different conversation about him.  Ladson Agrees.

Q: You said you thought Dusty Baker sticks with slumping players too long, but you didn’t list Bryce Harper on that list.

A: I think its one thing to stick with a slumping player too long when you have a better alternative (or even a possible better alternative) on the bench.  But how do you possibly claim that Bryce Harper deserved benching?  He was the frigging MVP last year; talk about impatience.  And even with his “down” season Harper still has an OPS+ of 117.  Harper has had a really weird season: his month by month splits show him crushing in April, falling off a cliff in May after the walkathon in Chicago, rebounding for a solid June, hitting just .176 in July, rebounding again in August (.934 OPS) and then again falling off a cliff so far in September (hitting just .203 this month).  If the partern holds, he’ll get hot again just in time for the October playoff games 🙂

Are the persistent rumors about his shoulder true?  Respected national reporter Tom Verducci has reported it not once but twice, each time with a more vehement denial from GM Mike Rizzo, but his drop off from last year is pretty apparent for all to see.  Certainly it would explain why he’s struggled so badly this year.  Are Rizzo et al denying so as to prevent a competitive disadvantage from being public knowledge?  Probably too late for that.

Ladson agrees; Harper is a different story.

Q: Do you think the 2016 Nationals team is stronger than the ’14 Nationals was?

A: Yes I do.  I think the 2016 rotation(at full strength) matched up better than 2014’s, the bullpen is stronger, and I think the hitting is more consistent with more production across the team.  Now, maybe a better question is, “Which team was better positioned heading into the playoffs?  There the answer is inarguably the 2014 team; the rotation we’ll field in the NLDS is two studs and then two question marks, we really don’t have a shutdown lefty in the bullpen, and two of our best hitters (Harper and Danny Murphy) are hurt.  Not a good time for all these injuries to hit.  Ladson gives the edge to 2014 for similar reasons as I gave.

Q: Being a longtime Expos fan and seeing that you covered them, how would you compare Vladimir Guerrero to Harper?

A: I’ll freely admit that I’m not nearly as qualified to answer this as Ladson.  But i’ll give it an opinion; Guerrero was a better hitter, more capable of hitting whatever was thrown his way.  They were comparable in terms of defense; both had powerful arms and great range.  I give Guerrero the edge in speed on the basepaths, and Harper the edge in power (which is tough to say given that Guerrero hit 40+ a few times and had 449 for his career).  Both players only have one MVP: Guerrero’s came at age 29 as soon as he got out of Montreal.  Harper won his last year at the tender age of 22, and you have to think he’s got more in him.  Ladson gives the edge to Guerrero for now.

Q: With the emergence of Turner in center field, do you think the Nats will bring back both Ben Revere and Michael Taylor next season?

A: Revere no, Taylor yes.  Revere is arb-eligible and is making north of $6M this year; he’s an obvious non-tender this coming off-season.  Taylor is still under complete club control and is not arb-eligible for another year.  I can see the team going one of three ways (as we’ve discussed here at length):

  1. Turner to short, Espinosa traded and we look for a CF in trade or via FA.  Taylor the 4th outfielder.
  2. Turner to short, Espinosa moved, Harper to CF and we get a FA corner outfielder (my preference but not likely to happen).  Taylor the 4th outfielder.
  3. Standing pat: Turner stays in CF, Espinosa stays at short, and Taylor is the 4th outfielder.

In all these scenarios, Taylor is the 4th outfielder.  Is he even the 4th outfielder?  Well, he’s now had 781 plate appearances in the majors; he’s hitting .224 and he’s struck out 248 of those appearances.  Not good.  I’m not sure what we do with him at this point.  Ladson agrees with me on non-tendering Revere, and thinks Taylor needs another year in the minors.


19 Responses to 'Ask Ladson 9/23/16'

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  1. Another reason the 2016 team is at a disadvantage going into the playoffs vs 2014: home field advantage. The way things are going, the Nats may not even have it for the NLDS against the Dodgers.

    This next week is going to be huge as far as determining how healthy they are going to be in the playoffs. Harper is starting to show signs of life again, and hopefully Murphy will be back in the lineup by midweek to give him four or five games to tune up before the NLDS.

    Even bigger would be if Solis and/or Strasburg are able to pitch. Obviously, Strasburg won’t be able to start in the playoffs, but a bullpen with those two in it looks much, much better, especially since they probably won’t be able to count on Ross or Gio giving them more than five good innings in their starts.

    Karl Kolchack

    24 Sep 16 at 7:05 pm

  2. Clinch!!!!


    24 Sep 16 at 11:02 pm

  3. Lopez made a strong case tonight to be included as the long man in the post season bullpen. I just hope Ross can go at least five innings next time in what will be his last outing before the playoffs.

    As for me, having been there for Storen’s Game 5 meltdown in 2012 and the 18-inning marathon in 2014, I’m skipping the NLDS this year. The wife and I do have tickets to the first home game of both the NLCS and World Series (crosses fingers).

    Karl Kolchack

    24 Sep 16 at 11:54 pm

  4. Home Field Advantage: yeah a week ago they had a 5 game lead over LAD for it. Now they’re down to just a one-game lead for it. Definitely disappointed in their last week. They don’t have the toughest road remaining … maybe they can still hold on.

    Todd Boss

    25 Sep 16 at 7:39 am

  5. speaking of clinching; check out the opening shot at the story; Harper is wearing a Ledecky smimming skull cap! Hilarious.

    Todd Boss

    25 Sep 16 at 7:41 am

  6. The 2014 Nats had nothing to compare to Katie Ledecky!

    Karl, I had the same thought about Lopez suddenly putting himself into long-man consideration. Right now, would you rather have Petit or Lopez? Experience vs. Stuff.


    25 Sep 16 at 7:45 am

  7. You guys are selling the current squad short vs. 2014.

    Advantages for 2016: better manager, better ace, better closer, better overall bullpen, better experienced playoff stud (Murphy), better leadoff disrupter, much better Buffalo, better bench, better defensive positioning, better defensive SS, better, a healthy Zim, better overall playoff experience, and very significantly, a much less playoff-successful opponent.

    Advantages for 2014: a healthy Stras (although he didn’t win), a slightly better #2 starter, a slightly better 8th inning guy, a better version of Werth (disappeared in playoffs), a better offensive 1B (disappeared in playoffs), a better version of Gio (disappeared in playoffs), a slightly better version of Rendon.

    Now, it’s true that Murphy’s health (and Harper’s alleged health) still remain to be seen, that Stras and Solis likely being out are going to hurt, and that Ross’s health and durability will be question marks. But the bar to top 2014 is set pretty low: win more than one playoff game.


    25 Sep 16 at 8:08 am

  8. There’s no way the Nats go into next year with Taylor considered as a starting option. I agree that Revere likely will be gone as well. I hope they can trade him instead of nontender, but they’re not going to get much for him.

    Could the D-Backs be convinced to part with Pollack for a package of something like Cole, Voth, and Taylor? Or Cole, Voth, and Espinosa to the Angels for Simmons? Both of those teams REALLY need pitching. But it’s going to take a 3-for-1 or 4-for-1 trade to get a real quality everyday player.


    25 Sep 16 at 8:16 am

  9. Hey, Todd. Did your family notice your sheer excitement over having back-to-back Ladson’s inboxes to crow over.

    Mark L

    25 Sep 16 at 9:29 am

  10. KW – Lopez or Petit? Lopez, no question. Petit’s ERA since 7/30 is a whopping 8.59, and his OPS against is 1.039. He is worse than useless at this point.

    Karl Kolchack

    25 Sep 16 at 2:30 pm

  11. Todd–my favorite moment last night was F.P. telling Carpenter that as a player “you really want to feel the champaign running down your crack.” Carpenter played it cool, but you could see in his eyes that he was thinking, did he REALLY just say that on live television?

    Karl Kolchack

    25 Sep 16 at 2:32 pm

  12. I’ve been told that Petit has ice water in his veins in the playoffs. I should remember, but I choose not to allow myself to do so . . . I completely agree that he’s really struggled in the second half, though.

    With Stras not seeming to be on the current radar, we seem to be down to Lopez, Cole, or maybe Latos for long man. Lopez was electric on Sat. night, Cole not quite so much on hangover Sun. Don’t know whether we’ll see Latos or Giolito this last week or not. Of course the thing that Lopez would offer over the others is the big heat if you just want to use him for an inning or two.

    The long man may be important, too. Ross isn’t fully extended yet, and Gio has recently been struggling just to make it five or six innings.

    Update: Latos warming in the ‘pen as I write, about to come in.


    25 Sep 16 at 3:15 pm

  13. Grrrr…while I agree that Kang’s move was total chickens–t, Harper also needs to be smarter about the situation. Staying healthy for the playoffs is job one right now, and that means no head first sliding under any circumstances.

    Cole also didn’t cover himself with glory. I’m not a big fan of beanball retaliation, but throwing at a guy’s head is never acceptable. A heater to the ribs that actually connected would have gotten the message across much more effectively.

    Karl Kolchack

    25 Sep 16 at 7:57 pm

  14. I don’t fault Bryce there, because it’s total instinct there. You can’t really play every second not to get hurt. It doesn’t work.

    I fully expect that we will now be told by many commenters that the Nationals have no chance against the Dodgers – many of those commenters having spent much of last offseason, Spring Training and the early season telling us that the Nationals weren’t going to win the Division. And if the Nats win through to the NLCS, we will be told that the Dodgers fell apart, and that the Nats will get plowed by either the Cubs (most likely) or by the “red hot” WC team. Etc.

    The Dodgers are a good team, the Nationals are a good team. Ain’t none of us know what’s going to happen.

    John C.

    25 Sep 16 at 8:18 pm

  15. I was actually afraid on first glance that Bryce had twisted a knee, which would have been fair worse. Just hope the X-rays look OK. He seemed to be downplaying things after the game.

    If nothing else, the affair seemed to be a team bonding episode, not to mention a chance to look at nearly the entire bullpen.

    Speaking of which, I think several of us had great hopes for Glover as a big arm for the playoffs, but he sure hasn’t been helping his cause.


    25 Sep 16 at 8:22 pm

  16. KW – I said over at Nats Prospects that I felt it was pretty obvious that Glover was rushed way too quickly. He has a great arm and appears to have a closer’s mentality, but he was just an 8th round pick just only a year ago and presumably had a lot to learn about pitching at the highest levels. I just hope his confidence doesn’t get shaken.

    Presuming they swallow hard and put Perez on the postseason roster along with Alphabet, it will be really interesting to see who gets the last two RH slots after Melancon, Kelley, Treinen and Belisle. Lopez ought to be one, and maybe this week they should give Gott some more innings because Glover does not look like a good choice right now.

    Karl Kolchack

    25 Sep 16 at 9:14 pm

  17. I don’t have a problem with what Cole did. It wasn’t a head shot, I’ve gone back and looked at it several times. If he had hit Kang with the pitch it would have been in the numbers. If it was a head shot, I would agree. I took a screen shot and it’s below the shoulder.

    The Pirates always pull this crap, frankly, and I am glad that the Nats showed some toughness (for once).

    The Nats have a history of taking rookie pitchers, especially if they have good stuff, and just assuming they can pitch high leverage right away. They did the same thing with Treinen and Rivero. It’s the rare rookie that can handle it. Maybe Lopez is one of them, I dunno. But I don’t think Glover is. Doesn’t mean that he won’t have a nice future but I wouldn’t have him on the post season roster.


    25 Sep 16 at 10:18 pm

  18. I’m assuming the Nats take 12 pitchers to the playoffs, as they’ve carried most of the season. I’m also assuming that Stras and Solis won’t be there for the first round, but Ross will.

    Locks (7): Scherzer, Roark, Gonzalez, Ross, Melancon, Kelley, Treinen

    Probables (2): Scrabble, Belisle

    That leaves three spots. One figures to be a long man from among Lopez, Cole, Petit, Latos, or Giolito. Right now, I’d have that choice between Lopez and Cole, although everyone will get another look this week. It wouldn’t surprise me if they go with Petit, though, or even Petit + Lopez.

    Against the Dodgers, I would bet that the last two slots go to lefties, eliminating guys like Glover and Gott. So there are three lefties for two spots: Perez, Burnett, and Grace. Frankly, I have more confidence in the latter two, but Perez is the vet with the contract, so I think he’ll be one of them. Burnett has gotten more looks, for whatever that’s worth. My guess would be that the scale is tipped toward him right now. So . . .

    Scherzer, Roark, Gonzalez, Ross, Melancon, Kelley, Treinen, Scrabble, Belisle, Lopez, Perez, and Burnett.

    On the bench, locks are Drew, Robinson, Heisey, and Sheriff Lobo. Who ya got for the last spot among Revere, Taylor, Difo, or Goodwin? My guess would be Revere. That doesn’t give them much RH pinch hitting, though.


    26 Sep 16 at 7:59 am

  19. Kang/Harper/Cole situation: I also have zero problem with what Cole did. what Kang did to Harper was little league BS nonsense. There was no play, nothing even close, and the only reason Kang did that was to get precisely what he got; an awkward last minute slide out of Harper for the sole reason of attemping to get him hurt. To hell with Kang and any of his teammates who thought that was possibly a play on the level. If that had happened with the teams I played on … Cole wouldn’t have missed with his next pitch.

    Read a quote that Rodriguez told Lobaton that the Cole pitch “was dirty.” Really? Was it more or less dirty than the Kang play?

    I wonder, by the way, what C.J. Nitkowski says now, considering the show of force Harper’s teammates just showed. Does he still think Papelbon was justified for choking the guy? that seemed to be awfully quick retribution and an awful quick statement from the veterans on this team in support of what happened to Harper.

    Todd Boss

    26 Sep 16 at 9:39 am

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