Maxie’s Hamstring Takes Center Stage!

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:))

 

 

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!

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:)

 

Clip to the Rescue?

Most of you likely saw this in today’s Post already, but any mention of Tyler Clippard returning to the Nats “pen” calls for at least a brief comment:)  After the bull-pen melt-down in Cincy, which included the first bad outing by Clip’s replacement Casey Janssen, most Nats fans are concerned, to say the least.  Some shuffling of the “deck” has already occurrred.  The article pointed out that if Oakland doesn’t start winning more games soon, they may be “sellers” at the July 31 trade deadline.  And given that the Athletics have a history of many trades with Washington, it would not surprise many if Clippard returns to the Nats come July 31.

I heard talk of the following on MLB talk radio this morning:  Wilson Ramos mentioned in an interview with 106.7 “The fan” radio that before the last game in Cincy (in which Joey Votto was hit by a pitch from Tanner Roark) the Nats had discussed exacting some retribution for the Reds pitchers hitting Gio twice and Bryce once in the previous two games.  I hope this doesn’t result in a suspension or fine for the Nationals.

Amazing!

Scoring 26 runs in two games is just what  the Nats needed to regain a bit of confidence with a bat in their hands.  And the 6,7,8, and 9 hitters in the order have been producing a big chunk of those runs.  Jordan Zimmermann’s three-run hit was the biggest blast last night.  And it was sweet to see Dan Uggla win the Tuesday game with his 9th inning three-run four-bagger:)

Hopefully these two games will help the team put their April funk behind them for good.

Note:  After I published the above short article I saw Tom Boswell’s excellent piece in the Post.  He makes the connection between Freudian theories on depression and the old sports adage “don’t wake up teams in a funk!”  This is a reference to the dirty slide into Yunel Escober in Tuesday night’s game by Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons that injured the Nats third-baseman.  This appeared to light a spark in the Nats dugout that might have been what got their offense charging back from a 9-1 deficit!

Hockey Anybody?

Before 2012, when the Nats first got to the post-season, i had been watching more hockey than baseball.  Tonight, after the Nats fourth error, I switched to the Capitals game seven showdown with the Islanders.  Just after that the caps scored the winning goal, so they are going to the next round of playoffs.

The Nationals are now playing their worst baseball since 2011.  And something is not right with Doug Fister, and apparently this goes all the way back to the start of Spring Training.  His normal fastball used to be at 88-91 mph.  Now it is around 85 mph.  The offense, defense and bull-pen are mediocre this year.

 

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.

The Marlins?

As MLK once said, “I have a dream.”  Well, I had one last night and it wasn’t pretty:)

The Marlins ended up winning the NL East!  By only 2 games, mind you, but what a shock.  Actually I’ve had the thought in the back of my head for a couple of weeks, but refused to acknowledge it.  What happened?  The Nats offense and bull-pen ended up being the problems I predicted. Take a look at the BP’s collective ERA today, March 30.  Look at how the offense has been performing.  Yes, It’s only spring training, I know.

I think I know where Bryce Harper’s ring will be, come October:)

BTW—Tom Boswell’s article in the POST today is another gem.

I Thought The Nats Were Looking for a Second Baseman!

That is what the team said.  But in the last 24 hours both Dee Gordon and Howie Kendrick have been traded, and NOT to the Nationals!  Both are second baseman who could certainly help the Nats.  Kendrick is going to the Dodgers (to replace Gordon) and Gordon is going to the Marlins.

I do know Mike Rizzo had been talking to the Angels about Kendrick.  I’m discouraged that the two teams could not put a deal together.  However Asdrubal Cabrera is still out there!