How Good Are the Nats?

They are good enough to possibly win the NL-East division.  But the Mets seem to have all their starting pitchers healthy and also have a chance to win it.  The Braves and Phillies are better.  So this division is up for grabs.  The Nats are slightly better now than they were at this time last year, but not by much.

They need the following: a 5th starter and a stronger bullpen.  Their starting pitcher depth is not strong at all; they have Hellickson and Jackson who are nearing the end of journeyman careers, and they have A.J. Cole and other AAA arms who are not ready for The Show.

Are they ready for October?  Not really.  To get past the first round of the playoffs they need to acquire a stronger #3 starter; Gio has never won a game in the playoffs.  The Nats need to do what the Astros did last year at the trade deadline, go get a starting pitcher who can win playoff games.  In addition they need to upgrade the bullpen by 2 better arms than they now have.  As the season plays out up to the trade deadline and some teams realize they are not going to be playing in October, candidates for the above needs will likely appear on  the market.

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A Good Start For 2018

Sweeping Cincinnati gave the Nats a great start to the new season.  In general the pitching, defense, hitting and base-running have looked pretty good.  Adam Eaton has been phenomenal as he played a major role in getting the Nats on the scoreboard in the first inning of each road game.  That is huge in any away from home series, but to start the season in this way, and with a new manager, can pay dividends in so many ways.  For sure the starting pitchers love that!

I strongly support Dave Martinez batting Trea Turner down in the order.  With his penchant for swinging at anything near the plate, not working the count and resistance to bunting, he does not belong near the top of the order.  I hope the new hitting instructor will help him with a more productive and mature approach to hitting.  Turner played a leading role in ensuring the Nats failed to get past the first round last October.

Sports Media Strikes Out

Last night’s game was exciting and was baseball at its best.  Baseball’s unpredictability is one of the main reasons we love the game.  I was happy to see StEvIE pitch the game of his life.  And now Mikey Taylor, the hitting hero, is leading the team with his .273 batting average.  The Nats showed heart and character (2 qualities that have been in short supply recently).

The after-game interview with StEviE made me laugh when he was asked about the ridiculous media circus (created by the media solely to sell their BS).  He basically said “what circus, I ignored it.”  And so did his teammates, according to other interviews.  Glad to see the Nats being so grounded in reality.

Tonight’s game 5 will be “must see!”

Stevie Says He Can’t Pitch Today

Stephen Strassburg says he is sick, due to mold exposure, and can’t pitch today.  The media and fans have gone ballistic.  We know Strass is fragile and many call him a head case.  I think there is some truth there.  But it is what it is, and Tanner Roark will pitch today and it’s do or die.  Both Gio and Max will be ready to come in from the bullpen.  So lets fasten our seatbelts!

Maxie’s Hamstring Takes Center Stage!

Max Scherzer is on  the mound today and nobody (including Max) knows if he will be able to throw more than 5-10 pitches.  And THAT explains the fortunes of the Washington Nationals in this post-season, in 25 words or less:)))

I am a “baseball lifer” and am still playing the game we love.  Therefore I too have encountered “hamstring problems.”  Solving them can take as long as several months; Max is trying to pitch today only 10 days or so after “tweaking” his hamstring!  If Max can’t pitch his usual 7 strong innings, the Nats have almost no chance of getting past the Chicago Cubbies to the National League Championship series of the 2017 playoffs.

The game begins at 4pm; enjoy it:))

 

 

Big Game Tonight

If you have not been watching the World Baseball Classic games this far you have missed some great stories!

The Israel team, ranked 45th in the world before the tourney, is 3-0.  They are for real; they beat an always strong Netherlands team for the third victory.  Netherlands finished fourth out of 30 teams 4 years ago.

The US team plays powerhouse Dominican Republic tonight at 6pm (game will be on the MLB channel).  The DR was undefeated 4 years ago, and has not lost this time around.  If they played the Chicago Cubs right now the outcome would be a toss-up.  Their starting nine all played in last years MLB all-star game.  Tonight’s game will be very interesting.

Insanity?

Some say the essence of insanity is to keep doing something, and failing endlessly, while keeping doing it the same way rather than looking for a better way.  Well That is what the Nats keep doing every time they let Gio Gonzales pitch on his still-scheduled day!  The team has lost the last six of Gio’s starts, going back to mid-May.  I don’t think they should bring up Lucas Giolito  yet.  He’s not ready, and he is on an innings limit too.  They could bring up a starter from Syracuse, or switch places with Yusmeiro Petit.  That could not be any worse than letting Gio start again.  Just saying……….

Here Come the Nationals

The Nats are very lucky to still be in first place in the NL East.  They are not a first place team, as I have said consistently since early Spring Training.  Either the Mets or the Marlins will win the division, but the Mets will have to pull off 1-2 big trades by July 31 to win it.  At this point the Marlins look like the team to beat.  They would help their cause though by acquiring one more good starting pitcher.

Tommy Boswell published a telling article in the June 10 POST.  He had used a fairly new statistic called “batting average on balls in play” (BABIP) to measure how luck affects both batting and pitching.  Basically it factors into the mix how many balls a team’s hitters hit well but right at the other team’s fielders.  By that metric the Nats hitters have been unlucky this year, while their pitchers have been blessed with unusual luck.

The Nats started June on a hot streak, but lately they are coming back down to earth.  Situational clutch hitting has been bad to terrible all season long; they rank near the bottom in all of baseball in batting average with runners in scoring position.  Winning teams HAVE TO BE GOOD at this!  Year after year this has been the main reason the Nats have not succeeded in either winning the division or of going nowhere in the playoffs.  Folks, it is time Mike Rizzo found a new hitting coach! (something I’ve said several times over the past 10 months).

Also, surprise, the bullpen has been mediocre ever since they acquired “the DC Strangler.”  If they don’t get a new closer by July 31, they will not win the NL East.  For a long time It looked like Felipe Rivero would be a great late-inning setup man, but that appears not to be at this point.  He needs to spend time at Syracuse to find himself again.

And then there is Gio Gonzales.  For him this has been the year of two Gios!  He began the year as one of the top pitchers in the NL.  Now he is in the middle of a bad losing streak.  I think he is out of options to be sent to Syracuse to try and get back to his early 2016 form.  Sad.  Maybe Rizzo can put him on the DL and get a replacement.

Dusty is doing a great job with a flawed roster!

The State of the Nats

As the Nats face the Mets for the first time this season, here are my comments.

A lot is on Max Scherzer’s shoulders tonight.  And the hitting as well as the bull-pen have to show up if the team is to prevail in the hot NL East.  The production from the lead-off spot has been awful.  The team hitting with runners in scoring position is terrible.  Harper has cooled off, partly since teams are walking him A LOT!  And the bull-pen has been “average” at best.

For the season my predictions are slightly worse than they were previously, mostly due to the fact that BOTH the Phillies and Marlins (without Dee Gordon!) are playing very good baseball.  Bottom line is I still think the Nats will finish in third place in the NL EAST, pretty much what I said before the season began.