Insanity?

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!

The State of the Nats

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.

 

 

Now They Play the “Big Boys”

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.

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!

 

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:)

 

Bull-pen Update

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.

Papelbon—-The End?

Since I wrote about Pap and his family moving out of the house they had been living in (in Alexandria, Va.), I have seen more info from his neighbors that confirms their departure.  Hope so.

Besides reflecting very badly on Mike Rizzo, this fiasco also indicates the Lerners don’t lose much sleep over “character issues” either.

Why not Mattingly?

Don Mattingly is looking for a job, since he was let go in LA.  Even though I’m sure he knows about the Nats toxic clubhouse, he was a success with the Dodgers.  Apparently he may be interested in the Marlins manager position, one that to me looks even less desireable than coming to Washington.  The owner, Jeffrey Loria, seems to like changing managers as often as he brushes his teeth!  And he also has a penchant for selling off half the team every time they make the playoffs.  Anyhow, on the off-chance that “Donny Ballgame” doesn’t really want to commit career suicide by going to the Marlins, the Nats ought to invite him for an interview.

He would be better than Dusty Baker, and as good as Bud Black.  He lead the Dodgers to 3 straight post-seasons.