Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘jp santangelo’ tag

Nats are quickly letting this season slip away


So, how long before Martinez gets fired? Photo via Geoff Burke/USA today

So, how long before Martinez gets fired?
Photo via Geoff Burke/USA today

“Its early.”

“Its only May.”

“Its a long season.”


The Nats woke up this morning (after a well deserved night’s sleep presumably after their interesting plane odyssey from Philadelphia sunday night) and find themselves seven games under .500.  And their next 15 games, taking them completely through the month of May, are against Milwaukee (best team in the NL last year by record), Los Angeles Dodgers (2x defending NL champs), New York Mets (who have 3 arms who at any given time will shut down a team), and the Cubs (currently in 1st place in the Central and of course 4x straight playoff participants).

So, we probably shouldn’t be surprised when they go 5-10 or 6-9 between now and June 1.  Lets give them the benefit of the doubt and they go 6-9; that’d put their record at 20-30 through their first 50 games.

That’s ridiculous.

Yes they’ve gotten hit with injuries.  Tell that to the Yankees, who (as of this writing) have 12 guys on the IL yet are seven games ABOVE .500.  They too have lost key hitters (they’ve yet to have Aaron Hicks take an AB this  year, and have both their primary sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge on the IL as we speak), yet they keep on cruising despite being in a division with Tampa AND last year’s 108-game winning Boston team.

So what’s the difference?   Why is a team like NY able to weather this storm but the Nationals seem impotent?  It isn’t payroll; while the Yankees have a higher payroll than the Nats, the delta is almost entirely made up by one awful contract to Jacoby Ellsbury, who hasn’t played a game for the team since late 2017.

Is it management?   Both the Nats and the Yankees jettisoned experienced, veteran managers at the same time in Dusty Baker and Joe Giradi; both got replaced by rookie managers (Dave Martinez and Aaron Boone).    Boone came straight to the Yankees dugout from the broadcast booth, having spent basically every day after his playing retirement in the ESPN broadcast booth.  Boone did not have *one day* of professional managerial experience or even professional coaching experience before taking over the club.  Meanwhile Martinez was Joe Maddon‘s bench coach for more than a decade, interviewed with half the league for managerial openings before the Nats picked him.   What’s happened since?

  • Boone inherited a 91 win team, won 100 games in his first season and they have a .600 winning pct this year
  • Martinez inherited a 97 win team, guided them to an 82 win season in 2018 and they have a .400 winning pct this  year.

I guess those 12 years as a bench coach weren’t nearly as valuable as broadcasting games and eating off of expense accounts that Boone did for a decade.  Maybe we should hire J.P. Santangelo to be Martinez’ replacement when he gets fired in a few weeks time.

Is it ownership?  If you’ve read a single word that Tom Boswell has written about the Nats managerial situation, you’ll have read these points:

  • Mike Rizzo and the “baseball people” absolutely did not want to get rid of Baker
  • They were more or less bewildered by the choice of having to “find” someone to manage in 2018
  • The owners, for reasons inexplicable, continue to view the on-field manager as a lowly mid-manager and not a well-paid, important position.

Is it roster construction?  I personally thought that the off-season moves were fantastic.  Gomes, Suzuki, Dozier, resigning Adams, signing Corbin, getting two closer-quality arms in Rosenthal and Barraclough.  So what the heck is going on?    Why can’t this team find 7 competent relievers to sit on the bench in RF awaiting a chance to “do no harm?”

Here’s the ERAs of the current 8 guys in the bullpen: 0.00 (Fedde), 1.15, 1.42, 6.75, 7.07, 3.55, 10.80, 16.88.  So of course last night, when you needed someone to bail out the team after Strasburg‘s start fell apart in the 7th … you pick the f*cking guy with the 16.88 ERA!  Why??  At what point do you look at the bullpen decisions of the manager and say to yourself, “enough is enough?”

This team, instead of dipping into any one of a dozen arms in AAA or AA who are pitching lights out, chose to give a contract to a re-tread who sat out the entirety of the spring training w/o a deal … and who now has retired just 8 of the 21 batters he’s faced.  Why does he still have a job?   How is it possible that this team missed so badly in their roster decisions w/r/t Trevor Gott (who currently has a sub 2.00 ERA for San Francisco) this spring?  Was Gott really a lesser arm than Tanner RaineyJames BourqueAustin Adams and Jimmy Cordero?  Clearly he was, since the all four of these guys were kept instead of Gott.

Why is the team signing guys off the street instead of trying out Rainey, Bourque and Cordero?  Why are they on the 40-man roster if you’re not going to use them?    Go look up Bourque’s numbers in AA last year and this year; they’re phenomenal; why isn’t he getting called up?  If your argument for not calling up Rainey and Cordero is, “they’re too wild in AAA” then, *why the hell are they on the roster?*  If the answer is, “Oh well Rainey throws 100” well who frigging cares how hard you throw it if you can’t find the plate and thus can’t get called up and be trusted in MLB settings.   Same with frigging Cordero; he was *awful* for the team last year, yet still occupies a roster spot, walking guys in AAA at nearly a guy an inning.  Why?

DFA these guys, call up guys in the minors who ARE pitching well.  There’s a slew of candidates at AAA (Derek Self, Dakota Bacus, Vidal Nuno has improved lately) who are pitching well.   Same with AA (Mario Sanchez, Jacob Condra-Bogan, even Aaron Barrett are pitching great).  I would have Included Adams here, with his ridiculous 21/3 K/BB ratio in AAA this year, but for reasons inexplicable the team opted to DFA him and trade him for a non-top 30 prospect and keep the  unused Rainey/Bourque/Cordero crew instead of retaining him and seeing if his stuff would play this year in the majors.  He got one inning of work this year; unlike Trevor Rosenthal he was actually able to COMPLETE said inning despite walking a couple of guys.   You mean to tell me that was any worse than what Jennings could give us?

And then there’s the bats.  Here’s our current non-catcher bench: Sanchez, Noll, Stevenson.  Wow; do these guys have 5 career homers between them??   Way to really pack the bench with slap hitters for those crucial late-inning PH opportunities.  Meanwhile Fresno has three veteran guys who are hitting the cover off the ball in Brandon Snyder (Westfields HS grad!), Jacob Wilson and Yadiel Hernandez.  Any of them getting a sniff?   Of course not.  Because the team has to keep around guys like Kyle McGowin as an 8th starter (current AAA ERA: 5.00 in 7 starts) and a catcher they’ll probably never use in Raudy Read.  Why??  Are you *trying* to win games?   Why is Jake Noll taking pinch hitting duties at the major league level??

I dunno.  Something needs to change.  I just don’t get the way this team is being managed right now, both on and off the field.

/rant off.

First Look: Taylor Jordan


Taylor Jordan trades in his minor league gear for a Nats kit for the first time.  Photo via on

Taylor Jordan trades in his minor league gear for a Nats kit for the first time. Photo via on

As Luke Erickson noted over on, one of the Nats worst-kept secrets was finally let out of the bag when word broke that Nats 2013 minor-league sensation Taylor Jordan was in New York and was going to make his Major League debut on Saturday June 29th.  Starting in place of “injured” and ineffective starter Dan Haren, Jordan went up against one of the worst offensive teams in Baseball (the Mets are dead last in team batting average, hitting just .229 as a team as of 6/29’s game).  Lets review how Jordan did.

At the end of the day, (a 5-1 Loss for the Nats and a “Loss” for Jordan in his debut), Jordan’s line probably betrays how well he pitched on the day.  Jordan was pulled after 4 1/3 innings and was relatively unlucky to have given up the 3 runs (1 earned) that he did.  After a nervous first inning that included a walk and a HBP, Jordan induced one of many ground ball outs on the night to get out of the jam.  He cruised through the 2nd and 3rd innings relatively unscathed before some bad luck and a couple of bad pitches cost him a run in the third.  He got what looked to be a double-play ball to erase one runner who reached by error but the turn was slow (in fairness, a ball deep to the hole in 2nd and a fast runner conspired against the turn).  He then hung a slider against John Buck who hit it sharply to left to drive in the first of his charged runs in the 4th.

Ryan Zimmerman‘s questionable positioning against the Mets’ cleanup hitter Marlon Byrd led to two fielding errors on sharply hit balls that, despite their pace, should have been outs (why is he playing even with the bag there??  Does he really think Byrd is bunting batting out of the clean-up spot?)   Then a little-league sequence in the 5th led to the 2nd run being scored when Ian Desmond‘s attempt to get Daniel Murphy advancing to third led to a second run.  Jordan’s last charged run was on a sac fly/inherited runner allowed to score by his relief pitcher Craig Stammen.

Jordan featured a fastball that was regularly 91-92 but which peaked at 95.81.  He seemed to tire as the game went on; his peak fastballs were all in the first two innings (perhaps he was “amped up”).  His mechanics reminded you of Jered Weaver, with a sweeping cross-body motion that results in plenty of movement on his pitches.  He featured a very plus change-up, which he commanded well and was able to get key strikes on (he had no issues throwing it to lead-off a hitter, or at 2-0).  His slider didn’t move much, but it also featured as a plus pitch when he kept it down.  He was able to locate his fastball well, as best evidenced in David Wright‘s third at-bat against him, where Jordan fooled him badly with a slider, jammed him inside repeatedly and eventually forced a weak ground-ball to the shortstop to retire him in the 5th.  He gave up some sharply hit balls, but he also was very unlucky as a couple of flairs and bloops fell in just behind the infield.

On the day, he gave up 5 hits, two walks, and a HBP against just one strike-out (against his opposing number Dillon Gee, who he retired with another fantastic change-up).  He wasn’t very efficient on the mound, only throwing 48 of 84 pitches for strikes.  He wasn’t “nibbling” per se, but definitely works the corners and missed his spots.  In the 4th and 5th he was constantly falling behind hitters and (as Masn announcer J.P. Santangelo noted) it eventually caught up with him.  He got 9 ground outs to just 3 fly outs to go along with a handful of bloop singles, and to me its clear what his approach is.  Despite pretty decent K/9 numbers so far in the 2013 minor league season (72 Ks in 90 1/3 innings) he’s definitely a guy who is going to rely on location and a sinking fastball to induce grounders for outs.

All in all, in an oft-repeated mantra for 2013 you can’t win if you don’t score.  He probably was pulled when he should have been and isn’t really at fault for the loss (not when your offense only scores one run against a middling pitcher like Gee).  I think Jordan clearly has earned another start and probably sticks around for a while.

One last note: I can’t help but comment on a cynical but possibly true comment I read in one of the other Nats blogs (my apologies, I cannot remember who said it).  Is Jordan’s call-up a precursor to his being included in a possible trade, much as Mike Rizzo featured both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock at the end of 2011 prior to shipping them off?  I ask this because Jordan doesn’t seem to be the typical Rizzo guy; he’s not going to overpower you, he doesn’t throw mid 90s.  Then again, neither does Haren and that didn’t stop Rizzo from signing him for $13M.

Either way, I look forward to his next outing.  I’m always excited to watch new guys on the mound.

Thoughts about the Peralta Pine Tar incident


Joel Peralta tips his cap in mock respect after getting tossed for having "an excess of pine tar" in his glove. Photo Patrick McDermott/Getty Images via bleacherreport

While watching the Nats game tonight, the broadcast team of Bob Carpenter and JP Santangelo posted the following quote (as referenced in several of the beat reporters columns earlier today):

“Just looking down the road, if I’m a major league player that may happen to want to come to play for the Nationals in the future, I might think twice about it, under the circumstances,” Maddon said before Wednesday’s game. “Because this is a guy, this is one of their former children here that had really performed well and all of sudden he’s going to come back to this town and they’re going to rat on him based on some insider information.”

The MASN broadcast team also relayed a follow-up to this quote, mentioning that a beat reporter that they had not “seen before” asked Joe Maddon a very probing, intelligent question.  As transcribed from the MASN broadcast:

“Well, your guy was the one who was caught.  A lot of people are talking about the fact that you’re trying to deflect the blame to the to the other team across the diamond.”

Maddon apparently blew off the question, didn’t ask it and challenged the questioner whether or not he covered baseball on a regular basis.  These quotes somewhat disappointed me; I have a lot of respect for Maddon by virtue of stories about him in Jonah Keri‘s excellent book “The Extra 2%,” about the rise of Tampa Bay.  Perhaps he’s indeed trying to deflect blame and control the story.  But I think Maddon does the exact same thing, if he’s in the same situation.

Last night’s gamesmanship was probably unnecessary, but a move that you have to make in the right situation.  Yes the Nats probably were aware of the fact that Peralta had a tendency to overdo the pine tar, by virtue of his playing for our team a couple years ago.  Was last night an odd time to cash in that particular chip?  The team was losing, but the game was close, and Peralta is clearly a great asset out of the Rays bullpen.  In fact, it surprised me to see the team not pursue signing Peralta after his excellent 2010 season for us.

Perhaps the message was meant more for Peralta; who knows what type of departure he had from the team.  But you would have to think that if the team still respected him as a player, instead of trying to get him ejected perhaps Davey Johnson would have taken the same route that Tony LaRussa did in the 2006 world series, when hurler Kenny Rogers clearly had pine tar all over his throwing hand, a fact that became clear when the high definition cameras caught him throwing in the first inning.

The fact is, when its hot out and you’re sweating, getting a grip on the baseball can be very difficult.  I certainly use pine tar heavily when I play to get an extra grip on the bat.  I have certainly played with pitchers who had a secret stash of pine tar “hidden” within their glove in order to get an extra snap on the curve.  Is this a violation of baseball’s rules?  Of course it’s against the stated rules.  The question is whether it is as egregious a transgression as (say) stealing signs or sneaking a peak at the catcher’s signs.

Much like a football player moving teams and taking along insider information on formations and trade secrets, inside information either brought to or left with teams can put managers in a tough situation.  Billy Martin was well aware of George Brett‘s proclivity to over-tar his bat, and he waited until a key game situation (i.e., a go-ahead homer) to cash in that particular chip.  Clearly Johnson made the decision to use the information he had on hand, last night in a key late-inning situation.

What do you guys think?  Bush league move?  Good use of information?

Nats Rotation Cycle #32: good/bad/soso


After Wang's latest gem, perhaps he'll be in a Nats uniform a bit longer? Photo via the team.


  • Tommy Milone efficiently worked his way through a Ryan Howard-less Philadelphia lineup in the first half of  9/20’s twin-bill (box/gamer) for the easy victory.  Line: 6 scoreless innings giving up just 4 hits and no walks.  He was matched by Philly’s spot starter Kyle Kendrick so he got a no-decision on the day.
  • Brad Peacock looked pretty durn good on 9/22 (box/gamer) to help the team sweep the Phillies away.  5 2/3 innings, giving up just one hit (on a somewhat questionable scoring call giving Ruiz a hit and an error on a diving stop but errant throw from Ryan Zimmerman).   He absolutely dominated the lineup through 5, finishing those 5 innings on just 50 pitches.  He gave up a ton of fly balls (small quibble: as with last week he had 9 flyball outs versus just 2 grounders), but lots of the fly ball outs were pop-ups on balls where he simply overmatched the hitter.  He struggled in the 6th, seemingly trying to aim the ball versus Oswalt and ending up with a 4-pitch walk.  He couldn’t be tired; he was only on about 55 pitches at that point.  After giving up a second walk (losing the at-bat after having Rollins down 0-2), he got a flyball out before getting yanked on just 69 pitches on the night.  Had he been left in, he could probably have gone 8 complete, but Davey decided on a lefty-lefty matchup and brought in Gorzelanny to finish off the rally.  I’m still taking the “glass is half empty” analysis here, but Peacock looked pretty good.
  • Chien-Ming Wang put an exclamation point on his comeback season, getting the win on 9/24 (box/gamer) and dominating the Atlanta Braves, who (unlike the Phillies) were certainly playing a full-strength roster.  Final line: 6ip, 4 hits 1 run (on a solo shot in the 5th) and 4 strike-outs versus zero walks.  He was only sitting on 85 pitches and could probably have gone at least one more inning easily.  He had a 9/3 go/fo out ratio, showing his sinker working well.  I wonder how negotiations are going to go with Wang in the off season (per this report here … maybe we won’t even get to the off season if the team and Wang are already talking an extension.  Great news if this is true).
  • You can’t ask for much more than Ross Detwiler did on the game’s final home game of the year on 9/25 (box/gamer), just pitch 6 scoreless innings and give a shutout to his bullpen.  Line: 6ip, 4hits, 2 walks and 4ks against a Braves team that is hanging on to the playoffs for dear life.  His day was highlighted not by dominance, but by his getting out of a bases-loaded, 0 out and 3-0 count jam without giving up a run.  He got a bloop, a flyball and a grounder out of Chipper Jones to finish off the threat and preserve the victory.  Another great statement game for Detwiler going into 2012.


  • Stephen Strasburg really struggled to be comfortable on the mound in the first inning on 9/23 (box/gamer), getting touched up for 3 runs on 4 hits (all singles but a couple hit on the nose) and facing 8 hitters before getting his 3rd out of the game.  He was missing spots, fiddling with the mound, fiddling with his landing spot, shaking his hand and going to the resin bag over and again before getting out of the inning.  He then cruised through the next three innings, facing just one over the minimum before getting yanked.  His rough first inning cost him his 5th inning; he was sitting at 75 pitches through four.  He was somewhat controlling his speed, averaging 95.5 and humping it up to 97.6 on several occasions.  His change-up was fantastic on the night, if his four-seam control was off.


  • John Lannan got the win on 9/21 (box/gamer) on somewhat of an off day for him; 5ip, 8hits, 3runs.  Not a great outing, but enough to get his 10th win of the season.

Starter Trends; Its hard to give some of these starts just a “good” rating, especially when you give the team 6 scoreless innings (as Milone and Detwiler did).

2nd half
Milone    bad,soso,good,good
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad,soso,soso
Strasburg    great,soso,good,bad
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso,great,good
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso,soso,good,good
Peacock    good,good,great

Relievers of Note and other News

  • I love the fact that 9/21’s win over Philadelphia guaranteed at least a season-split with them, and then we went and took the season series the next day.  That’s right; the Nats won the season series against the best team in the majors.
  • Likewise, 9/25’s win over Atlanta split the season series with them 9-9.
  • Is anyone else worried about the Nats losing a protected 1st round pick with this late season surge?   Here’s your reverse standings (normally a point of extreme interest for Nats fans looking to wrap up the first overall pick).  I guess its a good problem to have, but it will give the team some pause if they go after a type-A free agent.
  • I havn’t always been the biggest Henry Rodriguez proponent, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.  His 7th inning appearance on 9/25/11 was perhaps the most dominant 3 outs I’ve seen a reliever throw this season.  He was dialed in on his fastball, in complete control and absolutely overpowering hitters.  He punched out Jason Heyward on a pitch that was in the glove before he swung, then got the opposing catcher to actually attempt a bunt with 2 strikes.  He then put two 101-mph pitches on Jack Wilson before throwing an 88-mph hook to end the inning that had me saying “holy cow” to my TV screen.  JP Santangelo said it best; “that may have been the best inning i’ve seen a reliever throw all year.I concur.

Overall Summary

Here’s an “arbitrary endpoint” statistic; since Livan Hernandez‘s last start on Sept 4th, the team is 14-6.  Livan and Jason Marquis‘ starts have been replaced by guys who are making pretty good statements for 2012’s rotation, and the team is doing this without Jordan Zimmermann‘s stellar #2 starter capabilities.  Maybe 2012 is going to be more than the last transition year for this team.  I’m starting to believe in these up and coming starters.  Masn put up a graphic that showed our starters having the #1 ERA in the majors for the past few weeks and it has shown.

Tom Milone’s debut thoughts…


Milone's debut will be remembered far more for his stunning homer than his pitching. Photo: Luis Alvarez/AP

Masn announcer JP Santangelo called it the “most exciting moment of the year,” speaking of the stunning 3-run homer that starter Tom Milone hit off the first major league pitch he saw (see this AP link for some cool stats about the feat).  And its hard to disagree; I exclaimed loudly when he hit that ball, pounding a first-pitch inside fastball from his opposite number for a no-doubter to the back of the Nats bullpen to give himself a 5 run lead after 2 innings.  It wasn’t going to be nearly enough though…. Here’s some thoughts on Milone’s 9/3/11 debut against the Mets.

Milone’s scouting reports compare him to a young Tom Glavine, and its hard not to disagree.  He has a very easy, smooth motion with minimum effort, bringing a fastball from the left hand side that hits 90mph easily (as opposed to the scouting reports we had heard, which listed his max fastball at 87-88).  In fact, he hit the 90 mph barrier 8-9 times according to his Pitch f/x data.  That’s good news; it would have been hard to imagine a Jamie Moyer-esque young lefty surviving in this modern era of power pitching.

Milone features 4 pitches (a point I’ve talked about a lot w/r/t Ross Dewtiler and his lack of a 4th pitch or a quality 3rd pitch); a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a big looping curve-ball and a change-up.  Pitch f/x had a very difficult time figuring out what he was throwing on the night, listing him as throwing 7 different types of pitches, but odds are they were mistaking a 2-seamer as his change-up and a slider being his cut-fastball.   On the night, he seemed to throw mostly fastballs and changes.  He threw just a few of the big curve-balls (four if you believe the pitch f/x data) and a handful of the cut-fastballs.  He didn’t see to really have control of the cut-fastball, missing inside a number of times.  His change-up (his best pitch) was effective, but his best tool (pinpoint control of his fastball) was on display.

Milone started out the first getting a few low-strike calls that left the Mets players and bench fussing loudly.  I guess that’s what it took to get the umpire to change his ways, because soon after the same knee-high strike call that Milone got in the first inning against Reyes didn’t get called.  In fact, there were a number of borderline missed calls after the first inning that had me (and the broadcast team) head-scratching.  He quickly worked through the order the first time, giving up just one single and retiring the first 7 guys he faced.  He got a number of first-pitch strikes and worked ahead in the count a lot the first time through the lineup.  Santangelo mentioned how quickly MLB hitters adjust, and true to form the second time through the order Milone was more or less pounded.  Wright blasted a ground-rule double, Pagan hit a bullet through the right side to score two, and then a 2-run homer to Evans suddenly gave back most of the 5-run lead his team staked him.  When he couldn’t get Reyes out to start the 3rd time through the order in the 5th inning, he got yanked.  Understandable; if the Mets got four hits out of nine batters the 2nd time through the lineup, they were likely to do at least the same the next time through, if not better.

On the night, 4 1/3 innings, 4 runs on 6 hits.  He got 2 Ks (one on a very odd swing on a high-and-outside 0-2 fastball and one against league-leading Reyes on a beautiful change-up) and gave up one homer.  He threw 74 pitches, 51 for strikes and showed his great control.  I think he started to struggle once he stopped getting the knee-high strike call, he started to get burned by working further up and in.  He doesn’t have nearly enough power to miss inside.  I think he was hurt by the lack of cutter control and could have used that pitch to keep hitters honest.  If he throws a 90mph straight fastball, then an 88 mph cutter with movement should be a great pitch to use, expecially against right-handers.  He tried working it inside (ala Mariano Rivera) but gave up after he kept missing too far inside. Clearly he didn’t adjust to hitters as well as they were adjusting to him the 2nd time through the order; it will be interesting to see if that becomes a trend the next few times he throws.

On the night; a promising beginning and a troublesome finish.  The Mets are a very good hitting team (2nd in the league in average) so it was going to be hard to keep them completely quiet.  Lets see how he does the next time against Houston (a far worse team) before getting a re-match in New York in a couple weeks’ time.

Written by Todd Boss

September 5th, 2011 at 11:35 am