Is Ben Zobrist a Future Nat?

Could be.  I’m hearing a lot of chatter on the rumor channels.  With the Rays picking up Asdrubal Cabrera today (Dec. 30), that would indicate they could decide to part with Zobrist and his much fatter contract.  Zobrist is the kind of quality second baseman the Nats have wanted.  He has WAR numbers that are up with league leaders (though I have not yet seen the exact numbers myself).  Zobrist can play several positions well in both the IF and OF, but second is possibly his best place to play!

I’m crossing my fingers that Mike Rizzo is going for broke on this!

I Hear Drums Along the Potomac!

The gurus at MLB.com have ranked the Nats at the TOP of their power rankings, as we head to the playoffs.  That has me worried a bit mainly because I’ve had a lifetime of experience watching favorites NOT being able to live up to expectations, ESPECIALLY in the game of baseball!

Yes, Matt Williams has the team peaking at just the right time.  And even Ryan Zimmerman finally got some ABs at the end of the regular saeson.  Winning the most games in the NL (96) is quite an accomplishment for a rookie mgr. and the players.  (Before the season began, I predicted they would win 88-92 games). And The Nats “run-differential” was huge (+131 I think).  That is a very important stat.

But even more important in baseball playoff games is starting pitching.  This is why teams will pay the big bucks for John Lester, David Price, John Shields, Zack Grienke, etc.  The Nats have 5 playoff-ready starters, more then any other team!  Their only problem is which of the 5 gets added to the bullpen.  I’m thinking it will be Roark because he has done it before and was effective.  In their final 13 starts the other four guys (Strass, Zimm, Fister and Gio) went 13-0!  In their last “turn” (meaning the last 4 starts) they pitched 31 innings, gave up ZERO runs, 6 hits, had 38 strikeouts and only 4 walks!

Here’s hoping they play the Giants rather than the Pirates in the first round.  The Pirates have given the Nats a harder time this year:)

Note:  the 4-day layoff (Monday to Friday’s game) could be a problem, but I know Williams is trying to counteract that with simulated games and other activities.

YES, The Nats can Beat the Good Teams!

They are 15-11 now against the National League’s pennant contenders.  They just won series against the Dodgers and Mariners.  Last night’s game was their absolute best of 2014.  Came from behind THREE times!  Adam LaRoach came off the trainer’s table in the 9th inning and proceeded to carry his team on his aching back!!

I won’t bother recounting all the twists and turns, but I wish the playoffs werre starting TODAY!  Readers very likely know most of the details, but I recommend Tom Boswell’s piece in the Wash. Post today, as well as Mark Zuckerman’s thing in Nats Insider.

As I left the restaurant with my 51/2 yr old grandson and his grandmother, Jason Werth was dropping the fly ball in the 9th inning.  For the next 21/2 hours I was glued to an FM radio in the grips of a game I will not forget!

Where Are the Nats as of Sept. 1?

The Nats look (to me) poised to get into October in pretty good shape.  But I would not bet the farm on them getting to the World Series:)

Manager Matt did a great job of managing last night (Sept. 1).  The best move of all was bringing Thornton in to rescue Storen.  He has been showing a tendency to switch pitchers quicker recently; GOOD!

The guys are looking (as a team) ready for the necessary Sept/Oct. “push.”  Span, Gio, Strass, Werth, Harper, Rendon, Cabrera, Lobaton and Ramos have been stepping up their production recently.  The good teams do that.

The team brought up 6 players for the “Sept. Call-up.”  The best of those moves was getting Barrett and Cedeno for the bullpen.  They had been trying to rest Barrett in Syracuse and they accomplished that.  Hopefully he is ready for what is ahead; he could very well be the additional “stopper” the Nats need.  Cedeno is another lefty weapon in their pen.  No team has enough of those.  I used to be one myself:)

Us fans need to hang onto being positive, no matter how hard that is!

Nats Infield Ranked Best in Baseball

Today MLB radio (‘Inside Pitch’ moderated by Jim Bowden and Casey Stern) ranked the Nats infield of LaRoche, Cabrera, Desmond and Rendon the game’s best.  Some might remember Bowden used to be the Nats GM a few years ago.   The Dodgers, Braves and Cardinals infields were also in the conversation.

Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees pitcher, is flying back to New York today after the team said he had “general arm discomfort.”   This could signal serious problems,  since Tanaka has been shut down for several weeks with an elbow injury that usually ends up with Tommy John surgery.  He began doing some throwing recently so presummably that is what has caused the team to take this action.

Bring Back Steve Lombardozzi?

This is a follow-on to yesterday’s posting.

Listening to yesterday’s game against the Marlins, when Drew Storen was announced as he was coming in to CLOSE the game in the bottom of the 9th, I was not at all surprised after what happened Monday night (see my posting of yesterday:). And Storen did help seal the win! No, it was not pretty, but let’s admit the Marlins are a very tough team to beat this year. And Storen was throwing excellent stuff at them; his slider, when he gets it where he wants it, is deadly.

Trade deadline issues: I expect at least one Nats trade today. Rizzo’s top priority is a lefty reliever. But a strong “bench-player” who can handle 2B and hit better than Danny or Frandsen might tickle his fancy:) Lombo is one guy who can and is a fan favorite around the DC area (he’s a local boy!). Darwin Barney was another until he was just traded by the Cubs a few hours ago. Chase Utley has a no-trade clause and wants to stay in Philly, but DAMN (!) he’d look great in a Nats uniform!!

stay tuned folks!

Rizzo Looking For Lefty Reliever

GM Mike Rizzo has been on the phone looking for a new lefty for the bull-pen, and there are several out there available. I would think that means Blevin’s days are numbered, but I’m not hearing anything definite on that.
Other than that it looks like the Nats will stick with who they have, coming up on the July 31 trade deadline. No surprise there.

The Nats are in pretty good shape for the stretch run, and have won a lot of series in July. The 2 losses to the Marlins in the past two days were especially ugly, however. It was a shame to waste two excellent starts by Strass and Zimmermann. The injury to Ryan Zimmerman is really hurting the offensive production. Zimm is a very good clutch-hitter. Looking at the good news, both Spann and Werth are prime contenders for “Player of the Month.” They have been hitting the cover off the ball in July. Spann even had 2 consecutive 4-hit games! We all know Harper has been struggling with the bat, but he looked more comfortable last night (July 29) and had two key hits.

My prime concern is the apparent lack of a team “killer instinct.” Monday night they had the Marlins 6-0 going into the 7th, but they let the game slip away. Teams that really want to get to the World Series DON’T DO THAT! Two of the veterans made key late-inning mistakes; Werth trying to take an extra base on Stanton’s outstanding arm, and McLouth going all-out for a low line-drive that he let skip past him for a triple.

My other comment coming from that game is about Matt Williams. He, more than anyone else, was responsible for the Nats’ loss. Soriano was tired from having pitched the night before as well as other recent games. Storen however looked REALLY GREAT that night; I would have had him close out the game. Also, I would have replaced Blevins after he struck out lefty Yellich. The next batter, Jeff Baker, hits lefties very well so the situation called for Williams to bring in a righty such as Aaron Barrett for example. Unfortunately Tyler Clippard was not available for this game.

What Next?

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OK, the Nats are in first place. But they are not going to go deep into the off-season unless
they improve with the bat. They currently rank 20th in MLB in batting average and 17th in runs scored.

In all other major parts of the game they are ranked higher than that. One of the current bright spots (in team hitting) is Wilson Ramos, who now has a 14-game hitting streak going. But the team has been dismal recently in “situational hitting.” Opposing pitchers have been exploiting some team “habits”, such as the tendency of several of the right-handed guys, such as Werth, Zimmerman, Rendon, Desmond and also Ramos who like to hit to the opposite side of the diamond. I’ve watched several pitchers (like AJ Burnett last night) tempt them with a pitch just off the outside corner of the plate and then a succession of offerings that move even further off the plate. Last night I even laughed as Werth flailed at one of Burnett’s pitchers where he would have needed a 40-inch bat to reach!

Nats MVP

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Adam Laroche is, in my opinion, the team MVP for the first 81 games this year. He’s the best hitter on the team and a gold-glove first-baseman. Usually, when Nats pitchers get in a tight spot you see Adam going to the mound (and also Ian Desmond) to try to calm them down. And Adam is a big veteran influence in the dugout as well.

As for Bryce Harper’s comments on lineup changes to suit himself, I’m not going to waste space here. Matt Williams and the team veterans will deal with that:) Tom Boswell did in The Post today.

The Z-man Going Back to 3B

Zimmerman catching a fly ball during his debut in left field. (Photo: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports)

Zimmerman catching a fly ball during his debut in left field. (Photo: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports)

I heard Matt Williams say clearly in a pre-game radio interview last night (June 5) that Ryan Zimmerman would be back at 3B once Bryce Harper returns from the DL.  This is the clearest statement yet from anyone on the “top mgmt. team” of the Nats regarding how they plan to accommodate Harpers return in approximately a month.  I believe (and this is just my opinion!) he was basing that on how well the other pieces of this “equation” (namely Rendon, Spann, LaRoche and Espinosa) are performing AT THIS TIME.  Consequently, I take what Willims said last night with a small grain of salt:)

Baseball is a game of streaks.  (I know this all too well, as I’m dealing with a minor three-week hitting slump myself).  If any of the above players happens to be mired in a slump when Bryce comes back, Manager Matt would likely send Zimmerman alsewhere.

Footnote:  One of the main reasons Ryan is now in left field is not because anyone has firmly decided that is his future, but more likely because he is far less prone to re-injuring his healing thumb out there!