The Playoffs are Here!

No, the Nationals did not make it this year.  My post of April 5, 2018 said they would not.

The strange thing is Gio Gonzales (who was traded to the Brewers a couple of months ago) is going to start the first game tonight against the Dodgers:)))  The Brewers are underdogs to win the National League championship, but I like their chances.  Their manager, Craig Counsell, is one of the best.  He had a great playing career and won 2 World Series rings (Marlins and Diamondbacks).  As a player (and I watched him a lot) he was gritty and tough, a guy who never gave up.  But picking Gio to go tonight (he has never won a post-season game!) has me scratching my head:)))

And speaking of strange choices of starting pitchers………The Red Sox have pencilled in David Price to start game 2!  He is another guy without a win in October.  They ought to line up their starting pitchers this way: Sale, Eovaldi and Porcello.  And then, if they really must have Price start a game, have him go in game 4.

This should be great 7-game series for both leagues!  Fasten your seat-belts.

 

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!

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!

 

Zimmerman is Not Going Anywhere

The Cubs have approached the Nats about Jordan Zimmerman.  Neither team has said much publicly about the discussions.  It has been reported that the Nats have said it “would take a boatload” to pry JZimm away from Washington.  I would be shocked it the Cubs do manage to pull off a trade—I’d say the chances are about 1%.

What I would not be surprised about would be the Nats trading either Strass or Gio Gonzales.  They are the number 4 and 5 starters, tho the Nats have shied away from admitting that publicly.

The Nats need a second-baseman and some new bench players, along with a couple of new arms in the bullpen.  They may be looking for a new “designated closer.”

That’s about it in a nutshell:)

The Starting Rotation

The Nats have not yet announced their starting ratation for the first round, beginning tomorrow.  But I will tell you what I’d do if I were Matt Williams:  Zimmermann, Fister, Strassburg, Gio Gonzales.  I say that having considered the most important factors such as “stuff,” heart, mind, body and recent outings of the past six weeks or so, plus the now knowing who the opponent is—The Giants:)

It’s the pitching, honey :)

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The top four Nats starters are (as a group) the best top four in baseball!  Stated another way, of the top 20 ERA (earned run average) pitchers in baseball, the Nats have four.  No other team has more than two.  Adding Doug Fister in the off-season was arguably (according to FanGraphs) the best trade in all of baseball. On the other hand, last season’s Nats pitchers (with a couple of exceptions) were downright terrible at holding runners on base.  So it was refreshing to see that new manager Matt Williams had them working on that detail right from the start of Spring Training!  And this is a skill where Fister excells; he has only allowed 15 runners to steal off him IN HIS CAREER!  So his teammates can learn from watching him at work.Covering first is another area where the pitchers need to improve.  I remember seeing Jason Werth getting on Gio Gonzales in the dugout over this last year on nationwide TV. Gio looked like he forgot to cover first on grounders to the right side numerous times last year.  This can’t happen in professional baseball; kids learn it in high school!

In another bit of good news the team has hired former Nats starter and fan favorite Livan Hernandez to work with the pitchers during Spring Training.  I’m hearing that this has been a very popular move with the players, especially the younger guys.

The bullpen needs some work still;  1-2 slots are yet to be decided.  Spring Training will be interesting for this part of the team.