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.
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.
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!”
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.