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……….

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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.

 

 

Now They Play the “Big Boys”

Last night’s win was wonderful!  Especially after being swept by the lowly Phillies.

But we now see that the offensive woes of 2014 onward are still in the lineup.  Indeed two of the pitchers are hitting better than 4 of the starting position players!  Can anyone name the pitchers?  The team batting average with runners in scoring position is .225; that is BAD!

So far the defense and starting pitching is doing very well.  The bullpen is getting the job done this far, but I don’t think that will continue over the course of the full season.

I predict the Mets will pass the Nats in the coming week and never look back.  I was about to predict again that the Marlins will have a better season than the Nats.  But now with Dee Gordon gone for 80 games, the Nats might just hold onto second place.

How Many Games Will the Nats Win?

A couple of months ago I predicted 75 wins.  After a good Spring Training I now think they could win 85, but only if they keep the injuries down from 2015.  Their weak bull-pen will let them down again.  And Gio and Joe Ross will have mediocre seasons.  They won’t make the playoffs and will finish behind the Mets and Marlins in the NL East.

Bull-pen Issues Remain

The Nats bullpen was mediocre last year.  To me, that assessment is still accurate as we move close to the start of the 2016 season.  Today’s Washington Post has a good article by “The Boz” where he uses the kiss of death phrase “it is what it is” to describe this new/old collection of relievers.  This Spring only Sean Burnett, Blake Treinen, and Oliver Perez have better than average ERAs.  For my money, only Felipe Rivero has better than average potential.  I can only wish Mike Maddux (pitching coach) good luck with this pen.

Nats Come in Second With Cespedes

We can now add Cespedes to the list of excellent players (Hayward, Phillips, Chapman, etc) who have spurned lucrative offers from the Nats.  The Lerners and Mikey-Boy Rizzo know that unless they can tweak the bull-pen (Dump Paps and pry Andrew Miller from the Yankees) and also the starting rotation (replace Gio with someone better), they will be lucky to finish the 2016 season ahead of the Marlins, but behind the Metropolitans of Gotham.

You read it here!

 

23 Questions?

One way to look at the Nationals right now would be to count how many of the projected 25-man roster are looking like they will have “a good 2016 season.”  I count two:  Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer.  That’s it.  The rest all have some questions.

Their two biggest needs are a closer and a center-fielder who can bat lead-off.  Obviously they should do whatever it takes to dump Papelbon, even if it means paying him to leave.  Then they should liberate Drew Storen so he can try to regain where his career was (29 saves) when Mike Rizzo stuck a knife in his back.

It appears they might be able to pry Andrew Miller away from the Yankees, though it would cost a lot.  And they might do the same with Brett Gardiner.  Even if they just rented Brett for one year, he plays the game with passion, has speed and a good glove in CF, and knows how to get on base and create some havoc:)  I doubt Gardiner would cost too much either.

Now We Have Two Dannys!

One can hit and the other can play defense:)  Now if Rizzo would just convince the Lerners that the Nats don’t need a cancer in the clubhouse!  Dumping Paps would help bring the fans back……………….Just saying……..

The Nats could still be looking for a CF not named Spann or Taylor who can hit leadoff.  Several good ones are still available:  Fowler, Blackmon, Gardiner for starters.

As currently constituted, the Nats will end up fighting the Marlins for second place in the NL East.  They will not be a playoff contender.  Sorry Scherzer, you signed with the wrong team, unfortunately.

Nat’s Fans Are NOT Happy!

This is well known.  Mike Rizzo and the Lerners (and now Dusty Baker, sadly) better mend fences soon, or revenue could become a problem.

I’m glad to see that just this week, on the margins of the winter meetings in Nashville, they began some wheeling and dealing.  Several new bullpen arms are on the way, starting with Yusmeiro Petit, who was a “Nats Killer” with the Giants in recent years.  He can spot start or go multiple innings in the middle of games.  They have also added the following relief pitchers:  Sean Burnette ( who was very successful in his prior stint here), Trevor Gott, Mike Brady, and Shawn Kelly.  I predict 2-3 of these will actually end up in the 2016 bullpen and be successful.

The other exciting news is the Nats have made an offer on Jason Hayward.  I predict they will not sign him.  Why?  He is wildly overpriced and there are plenty of great outfielders out there, including three with the Rockies who are so far flying under the radar (Rizzo’s preferred targets!).  I think the Nats just made the offer to try to goose other teams into getting Hayward off the market so then they can focus on all the others.

So far, the Nats are still a 75-win team at best; you heard it here:)