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!
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!
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.
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.
Ok, here is the latest. The Nats are talking with the Reds about 2B Phillips! This would be a good choice. He has been an RBI machine and one of the best 2B guys in the NL for several years. The Reds are in SELL mode for sure and I doubt the price for Brandon will be very high. But the Lerners have already offered $200M for Heyward, so what the hey.
My other two acquisition choices if I were Rizzo are:
Andrew Miller for closer
Brett Gardiner for a lead-off CF.
All three are available for the right deal.
You saw it here:)
75 Wins if Nats are Lucky
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.
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:)