Post-Season Thoughts

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.

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!

 

The Missing Offense

The Nats offense has mostly been MIA for the month of May.  Last night’s (May 28) gift to the Marlins in 10 innings was especially ugly (and typical of this whole month).  They loaded the bases with no outs in the 8th inning and failed to push even one run across the plate with the game tied at 4.  I can remember 4-5 other times this year when that happened.  Then in the bottom of the 9th, the leadoff batter, Wilson Ramos, was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single.  He would have scored the winning run if he had played it safe, as Frandsen and McLouth both got base hits after that. Then in the 10th inning the Marlins rallied to win the game.

The Nats batting average for May is the worst in the major leagues.  They have a bushel basket of losses by one or two runs.  Clutch hitting with runners on base is exceedingly rare. OK, Ramos, LaRoche, Zimmerman and Harper (four of their bast hitters) have been out with injuries.  The way Ramos was tearing up spring-training pitching, it appeared he would come out of the gate on opening day leading the offense.  But he went on the DL after the very first game and though he’s back in the lineup now, he has yet to regain his hot bat.  And the best one can say about the bench hitting is that it is better than last year’s.

LaRoche is the only starter who has steadily maintained an average over .300.  Rendon and Espinosa both started very hot in April, but Danny is now reminding us of 2013 when he couldn’t even hit at Syracuse!  Rendon is in the first slump of his pro career and one can only hope he turns it around soon.  His approach appears to be the same as always, a good sign.  And that makes me think his numbers will begin to improve.

When they score 4 or more runs the Nats win 90% of the time, so that is a good goal to shoot for.

There is an excellent Tom Boswell article in today’s Post on all this

 

 

 

No, I’m Not In Bed With Las Vegas!

Michael Taylor in centerfield. Photo courtesy of Curly W, the official blog of the Washington Nationals.

Michael Taylor in centerfield. Photo courtesy of Curly W, the official blog of the Washington Nationals.

I noticed recently that Las Vegas has the Gnats (ooops, I meant Nats) winning 88.5 games this year. This seems right in line with my own guesstimate of 88-92 wins in my initial post. Everything will have to go right, I think, for them to reach 92 wins–no major injuries; the bullpen performs better than it did last year; Espinosa learns how to hit major-league pitching; Harper and LaRoach improve against lefties; and all the pitchers finally learn how to hold runners on base.

That last point is a real sore-point with me (as a former pitcher in college and semi-pro who LOVED picking sleeping base-runners off). Since early January I’ve been participating in indoor baseball practice with about 30-40 local players and I was chatting this week with our infield coach (who is a former professional minor-league player who is about 30 years old) and the conversation went like this: I asked him what he thought about how bad the Nats pitchers are at holding runners. He reacted by rolling his eyes, then told me he had played with a few of the very Nats pitchers I was referencing. And after he muttered a few choice, unmentionable, epithets I got the clear impression he was as annoyed about this as I was!

It was wonderful to watch parts of the first Nats Spring Training game yesterday!  Not much to say other than that. But one thing really made an impression on me. I had had no idea what all the chatter about Michael Taylor was about, and now I KNOW. His triple, to win the game in the 9th inning, let me know in dramatic fashion that this is a player to keep an eye on!  Taylor will likely be playing this year with AAA Syracuse, but he may be making an appearance with the big boys in September.