The 11 That Got Away

First, we have to marvel at the game Scherzer pitched last night!  I want a DVD of this gem.  Striking out 9 straight the third time thru the Mets batting order was the frosting on the cake!  In both no-nos Max was one fluke play away from a perfect game.  And I think he had three one-hitters this season too.

The Post has a great article today (by James Wagner) about the 11 games the Nats should have won but didn’t.  The main culprit was their bullpen, constructed by Mike Rizzo and mis-managed by Matt Williams.  These games made the difference between winning the division and not even making the playoffs.

Another thing for us to ponder is this:  If the Nats had not spent a small fortune on Scherzer, they would have had money around the date of the trade deadline to shore up the bullpen (and would not have acquired Mr. Pap-smear).  They could have got either Chapman or Kimbrel instead, plus one or two others.

What if?

More Nats Info at the End of the Season

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.

 

Coming Roster Changes

I expect Matt Williams and Jonathan Papelbon to be gone very soon after the season ends.  One pretty good un-employed manager out there now is Bud Black (recently let go by the Padres), but I don’t know him well enough to say the Nats should go get him.

I considered not doing this blog any longer when Mike Rizzo acquired Pap, because it showed me he no longer had any clue what the Nats needed and had really lost his way.  He has not put together anything near an effective bullpen.  For that alone I think the Nats also need a new GM.  Not keeping RZimm or Span are 2 more bad decisions.

If the Nats can afford Scherzer then they can afford RZimm too.  They should also make Span an offer for a 1 or 2 year contract.  RZim’s health is a big concern but they won’t part with him, he’s just too good when healthy!

The Nats offense is just too inconsistent to keep hitting coach Schu.  Have the new manager bring a replacement.

Behind the plate both catchers are pretty good and I don’t see any better ones becoming available.  But if a better one does appear on the market the Nats should try to get him.

An October Preview?

I’m still savoring the just-completed series with the Cubbies!  I would not be surprised if both teams meet in October; the Cubs have improved A LOT and they are a fun team to watch, with so many young studs:)  Kris Bryant grew up playing with Bryce Harper as a kid in Las Vegas and it was fun watching the 2 of them hugging in the outfield before one game and bantering back and forth during the games.  Each game was a nail-biter and I think only 11 runs (total for BOTH teams) were scored in the entire series!

We got to see what a gem Mike Rizzo found in Casey Jansen.  He pitches like a combination of Scherzer and Fister (in-your-face aggression, only high 80s speed and good control).  And the spectacular way he fielded Dexter Fowler’s surprise bunt and threw him out at 1B was jaw-dropping. He may make us do the unthinkable and forget Tyler Clippard!

The Nats bullpen (I’ve said this before) is jelling and Mgr Matt Williams (and “Cat” too) deserves a lot of the credit for learning how to use every one of the guys from Treinen to Storen.

 

 

Curve-ball Nightmares

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.

First Walk-off of 2015!

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.

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.

Why?

Why did Manager Matt take JZimm out in the 9th after he only needed one more out to close out a 3-hit shutout?

Why couldn’t the Nats offense manage to score more than ONE RUN in 18 innings?  How could they play 164 games this year and forget how to hit a baseball?

Oh well, we’ve got the Redskins to watch:)

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:)