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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I was driving home listening to MLB radio, they said Brandon Phillips had tweeted them the following: “513 to 202.” Those are the area codes of Cincinnati and Wash, DC. That was about 9;30pm. When I got home I checked some of the baseball web sites and at 10pm, Ken Rosenthal (who is almost always right on this kind of news) reported that Phillips was signing with the Nats. I have no details yet, and it’s past my bed-time:)
Update as of 10am, Saturday, Dec. 19: the deal is pausing as the three parties deal with what is likely a last-minute demand for more from Brandon Phillips. I’m staying g on top of this.
Update as of 5pm Saturday, same date. The deal is off. Nat’s said take our offer as is. Phillips said no trade. That’s all she wrote.
Changing the subject, It’s clear to me Papelbon is killing Rizzo’s ability to attract the best players (such as Hayward and Zobrist). The Nats should buy out his contract and cut him loose.
I wonder how the season ticket sales are going. As the roster stands today the Nationals will be a mediocre team. What do they need?
A Closer. And they are weak up the middle. The combination of Danny at SS and Trea Turner at 2B would be fine defensively but pitchers would love seeing them coming up to bat:) And they need a power-hitting left-handed outfielder for either CF or LF not named Cespedes. Gordon would be great, but there are several others out there still. The current lack of rumors could mean Rizzo is close to a deal. But his problem is not money, but the fact that few want to play for the Nationals. The reasons are obvious to all by now.
To me the rotation looks……………………………….questionable. Sure, we expect Scherzer to bounce back, but I’ll believe that when I actually see it. Same with Strasburg, who was great over the last six weeks of the 2015 season. Then we get to the real big “ifs.” Gio, Roark and Ross.
About the only real good news is that like the Giants, the Nats seem to play well in even-numbered years! I hope 2012 and 2014 don’t turn out to be their high-water marks.
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:)
Things seem to be churning in the Nats tepid efforts to re-build the “pen.”
The rumor that Darren O’Day is leaning to coming to DC (from the Orioles) is the only seeming good news. He would help in the late innings.
The acquisition of Oliver Perez is nothing Mike Rizzo should expect to be applauded for. His stats are mediocre. He is a step down from Matt Thornton.
The most discouraging is the decision to non-tender Craig Stammen. The rumors are that might be due to a so-far not so good recovery from surgery on his throwing elbow. Not all operations on pitchers throwing elbows are totally successful. Apparently the Phillies Cliff Lee is recovering from the same procedure. And I have seen recent rumors the Phillies are trying to alter or sever his contract. Not having Craig in 2016 would be a really major loss! From 2011-2014 he was one of the most dependable relievers in all of baseball.