Max Scherzer is on the mound today and nobody (including Max) knows if he will be able to throw more than 5-10 pitches. And THAT explains the fortunes of the Washington Nationals in this post-season, in 25 words or less:)))
I am a “baseball lifer” and am still playing the game we love. Therefore I too have encountered “hamstring problems.” Solving them can take as long as several months; Max is trying to pitch today only 10 days or so after “tweaking” his hamstring! If Max can’t pitch his usual 7 strong innings, the Nats have almost no chance of getting past the Chicago Cubbies to the National League Championship series of the 2017 playoffs.
The game begins at 4pm; enjoy it:))
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.
The scuttlebutt and rumors are now building on Matt Williams’ departure. He will be gone very soon. Papelbon should go with the same speed, but his contractual details may take the lawyers a bit more time.
The acquisition of Pap clearly really upset team chemistry, which had always been pretty good. But the worst effect was clearly on Drew Storen, who was having a great season with 29 saves up to that point. He may now be “un-salvageable.” So the Nats may be faced with having to find another closer for 2016, and THAT is always very difficult.
Thursday’s Washington Post (9/30) had two great articles. One was about how the trade for Pap, and Williams’ bad running of the bullpen, along with his poor communications with the players all combined to send the Nats into their season-ending tailspin. Barry Svrluga wrote this article, based on a whole season of talking with the players. His best quote was when Jason Werth said to Matt Williams “When do you think you lost this team.” I tried to import a link to the article but apparently the Post has made that impossible to do.
The second article (same date by Kevin Blackistone) is about how Bryce Harper was quoted, commenting on Papelbon’s beaning of Manny Machado), essentially saying it is time for pitchers to stop intentionally hitting batters who had show-boated a little after hitting a homer. This has long been one of baseball’s “unwritten rules.” What made Papelbon’s act so reprehensible was that he threw AT MACHADO’S HEAD! I applaud Harper for having the maturity at the tender age of 22 to stand up against a “rule” that needs to go away.
The Nats will have a lot of work to do during the off-season if they want to be a contender in 2016.
It would be tempting (after kicking the Braves’ butts last night) to imagine the 2015 Nats are rounding the final turn into the home-stretch of this season about the grab the division title away from the NY Mets. But after handing the Cardinals 2 out of the last 3 games (when they could have easily won both) most of the Nats fans would probably still bet on the Mets:)
The Nats bats are most likely still smoldering and smoking this morning after exploding last night. Ryan Zimmerman now has 71 RBIs in the approximately 95 games he has played this year (which projects out to about 121 for a full season). He is one of the hottest batters in baseball right now.
Bryce Harper, batting just before RZimm, wisely didn’t swing at any bad pitches and managed to walk every time he came to bat! He scored all 4 times. Bryce is only the 4th player SINCE 1914 (!) to score 4 runs with NO OFFICIAL AT-BATS in a game. Put that in your pipe and smoke it:) He saw 20 pitches and did not swing at a single one!
The rest of the team brought their A-game also. Rookie Trea Turner even got his first major-league hit! Pretty good after flying home from St. Louis in the middle of the night and getting to bed around 6am before the game.
Every reliever has a bad night once in a while, and it has been a very long time since something like last night happened to Drew Storen. When the “slammer” was hit in the 8th inning, the Nats had 2 innings left for their offense to just score a run or two. The Mets came back from deficits three times last night, but the Nats hitters could not muster even one comeback. A rookie struck out Bryce Harper to end the game.
The Nats chances of making the playoffs have taken a BIG hit in the past 8 games!
So, the Mets and Nats are tied for first place after 103 games. The just-concluded 3-game series was at times hard to watch, as good-pitching with mediocre hitting can be. The Mets out-scored the Nats 10-5, and the weak-offense Nats struck out 34 times in the 3 games. Bryce (and most of his teammates) at times looked over-matched against the three aces New York threw at them. In 11 at-bats Mikey Taylor fanned 8 times, looking like the pre-2015 Danny Espinosa. Too bad “mad-man-Max” coundn’t pitch all three games!
The recently bolstered back-end of Washington’s bull-pen could not help in this series.
New York almost sold out all three games and the atmosphere was electric for the whole weekend. The Mets have not generated this kind of raucousness since 2007!
Fasten your seatbelts:)
A footnote regarding my last article: Boz has a great article on Stephen Strassburg in today’s Wash. Post.
Harper has more HRs in the month of May than two TEAMS: the Phillies and Braves!
Max Scherzer’s own batting average (.200) is higher than that of all the hitters he has faced thus far in 2015 (.199). I don’t think many pitchers can say that; maybe only Bumgarner.
Yesterday a friend pitching for the opposing team struck me out on a nasty curve! Not the first time for that, but over the years I’ve got my base-hits off curves; in fact my best hit yesterday was a sharp RBI line-drive up the middle off a curve!
OK, on the the real story: Bryce Harper. His OPS (on-base average plus slugging) is on a par with that of Barry Bonds in 2004, possibly the best ever. 1.206 is a crazy OPS for a whole season; it will be fun watching Bryce try to maintain this.
I looked at about 15 offensive stats and Harper is among the top 4 in most of them, for all of MLB. Many are talking a lot about Giancarlo Stanton this year, but as good as he is, Bryce is better thus far.
It is noteworthy that Harper has publically credited his manager Matt Williams with helping him get to this level. He says Williams helped quiet down his swing, keep his head still and stop chasing pitches out of the strike-zone.
When I first heard the Nats had traded for Yunel Escobar I did a little research and was not very impressed with what I found. But after the first two weeks of the season, I can see what a tough out he is in the batter’s box:). He is what we call a “contact hitter, ” or someone who rarely swings and misses. Manager Matt had Yunel batting leadoff for about the first 10 games for exactly that reason. It is possible that watching Escober hit is rubbing off on his team-mates, like Bryce Harper. Thus far Harper is working pitchers for more walks than usual (for him). Last night Escobar pounced on a fastball in the 10th inning and stroked a home-run to win the game!
Over the most recent 8 games the Nats are hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position.
The Nats are close to having Anthony Rendon play in some minor-league games. That means he might be back in the Nats lineup within a coule of weeks.
The 2012 Nats playoff performance was way better than that of the 2014 Nats! The players who performed up to their ability this time were few: Harper, Rendon, Strass, JZimm, Fister, Cabrera, Blevins and —are you ready—-Soriano. 8 out of 25. Maybe we should bring Davey Johnson back. The Giants didn’t play much better than the Nats either.
Matt Williams cost them game 2, by removing JZimm when he was one out away from a victory! And bad defence played a major role in the losses of games 1 and 4. But the biggest problem was the near lack of any offense.. And most of the Nats played with little EMOTION! They often looked like robots. Maybe that is partly a reflection of William’s managerial style; he rarely shows ANY emotion. He tried explaining why he took JZimm out in the 9th inning of game 2 by saying that was his game plan he put together before the game even started! One wonders if he has any “feel” for how the game is flowing or how his players are feeling. JZimm had thrown 8 and 2/3 innings of a three-hit shutout and was looking strongly in control of what he was doing!
Nope, the Nats/Giants playoffs were not fun to watch. I find myself looking forward to watching the Orioles/Royals playoff series. Both teams are playing exciting baseball as if they really want to get to the World Series.