The gurus at MLB.com have ranked the Nats at the TOP of their power rankings, as we head to the playoffs. That has me worried a bit mainly because I’ve had a lifetime of experience watching favorites NOT being able to live up to expectations, ESPECIALLY in the game of baseball!
Yes, Matt Williams has the team peaking at just the right time. And even Ryan Zimmerman finally got some ABs at the end of the regular saeson. Winning the most games in the NL (96) is quite an accomplishment for a rookie mgr. and the players. (Before the season began, I predicted they would win 88-92 games). And The Nats “run-differential” was huge (+131 I think). That is a very important stat.
But even more important in baseball playoff games is starting pitching. This is why teams will pay the big bucks for John Lester, David Price, John Shields, Zack Grienke, etc. The Nats have 5 playoff-ready starters, more then any other team! Their only problem is which of the 5 gets added to the bullpen. I’m thinking it will be Roark because he has done it before and was effective. In their final 13 starts the other four guys (Strass, Zimm, Fister and Gio) went 13-0! In their last “turn” (meaning the last 4 starts) they pitched 31 innings, gave up ZERO runs, 6 hits, had 38 strikeouts and only 4 walks!
Here’s hoping they play the Giants rather than the Pirates in the first round. The Pirates have given the Nats a harder time this year:)
Note: the 4-day layoff (Monday to Friday’s game) could be a problem, but I know Williams is trying to counteract that with simulated games and other activities.
Here are my picks for the post-season roster:
1. Bullpen: Storen, Roark, Clippard, Barrett, Stammen, Detwiler, Thornton, Blevins. Why Blevins? Because he has been very effective against lefties (but NOT Righties!).
2. Bench: R-Zimm, Frandsen, Lobaton, Espinosa, Schierholtz. Why Schierholtz? Because he is a good backup outfielder and has more experience than Michael Taylor. And he’s a better overall player than Hairston.
The Nats have been making a strong statement recently. Starting sometime in August of this year they have been playing “playoff” baseball, which they clearly DID NOT DO in 2012. Just about everyone on the “core” 25-man roster has stepped up his game, including Strass and Gio (who up to then were having sub-par years). The 5 walk-off wins in 6 games was a wake-up call for the rest of the National League. The 4 out of 6 games they took from the dodgers and Mariners was another. Ryan Zimmerman’s 2 base hits in his first game back from the DL was yet another. And the list goes on.
We don’t know what will happen in the playoffs, but Matt Williams has the team READY! Now the most tantalizing question is who will make the playoff roster.
First, a brief mea culpa: I haven’t posted anything for two weeks because I had a tournament to play in (yes, Baseball!)—— in “baseball heaven”—-Cooperstown, NY. Nine games in five days; we came in second, same as last year.
And the Nats are still winning and having a great September. The whole yeam seems to be peaking at just the right time. Rendon would appear to be the 2014 team MVP and is fourth in the entire National League in WAR (wins above replacement). Four Nats have more than 80 RBIs. Drew Storen, the new “closer,” has reeled off 8 straight saves. Span is having a career year and should win a gold glove for his incredible play in center field. Ryan Zimmerman may be back in the lineup tonight. And the starting pitchers,………..now ALL FIVE are pitching like they need to do for the team to get to the World Series (WS).
On the air waves and the internet an increasing number of people are including the Nats in the discussions of who has a good chance of getting to the “Fall Classic.” Here is a link to a good article picking the Nats and Angels to get there. If the link doesn’t work, just google “Nats and Angels by Phil Rogers” dated Sept. 18. Also, Tom Boswell did a Sept. 17 article on how good the Nats prospects are.
Now Matt Williams has the team pushing to gain the home field advantage for the playoffs by finishing the season with the best record in the National League. At this moment they are ahead of the LA Dodgers by 1.5 games for that prize!
According to whom? Well, how about yours truly and little Tommy Boswell?
The Nats 14-inning winner Wed. night made me a believer, and apparently I’m not the only one. Boswell is the best BASEBALL analyst I have ever encountered. And rather than writing a long article explaining why I finally do think the Nats have a chance to get to the World Series, I encourage readers to google his article in today’s Wash. Post.
For starters, Manager Matt used 26 players in that watershed game, and did NOT MAKE even ONE Mistake. Some might quibble about bringing Soriano in for the 9th inning, or leaving him in a couple of batters too long, but he is the closer we are stuck with for better or worse.
Second, all the Nats are peaking at the right time in a long-tough season. And all the new players are doing what they have been hired to do. Even Strass!
Enjoy the rest of a great season!
They are 15-11 now against the National League’s pennant contenders. They just won series against the Dodgers and Mariners. Last night’s game was their absolute best of 2014. Came from behind THREE times! Adam LaRoach came off the trainer’s table in the 9th inning and proceeded to carry his team on his aching back!!
I won’t bother recounting all the twists and turns, but I wish the playoffs werre starting TODAY! Readers very likely know most of the details, but I recommend Tom Boswell’s piece in the Wash. Post today, as well as Mark Zuckerman’s thing in Nats Insider.
As I left the restaurant with my 51/2 yr old grandson and his grandmother, Jason Werth was dropping the fly ball in the 9th inning. For the next 21/2 hours I was glued to an FM radio in the grips of a game I will not forget!
The Nats look (to me) poised to get into October in pretty good shape. But I would not bet the farm on them getting to the World Series:)
Manager Matt did a great job of managing last night (Sept. 1). The best move of all was bringing Thornton in to rescue Storen. He has been showing a tendency to switch pitchers quicker recently; GOOD!
The guys are looking (as a team) ready for the necessary Sept/Oct. “push.” Span, Gio, Strass, Werth, Harper, Rendon, Cabrera, Lobaton and Ramos have been stepping up their production recently. The good teams do that.
The team brought up 6 players for the “Sept. Call-up.” The best of those moves was getting Barrett and Cedeno for the bullpen. They had been trying to rest Barrett in Syracuse and they accomplished that. Hopefully he is ready for what is ahead; he could very well be the additional “stopper” the Nats need. Cedeno is another lefty weapon in their pen. No team has enough of those. I used to be one myself:)
Us fans need to hang onto being positive, no matter how hard that is!