The guys talk the week in Nats news, a trip to Philly, Harper's bad rap, potential call-ups, the Dodgers spending spree, the upcoming homestand and MUCH more!
This isn't about Bryce Harper as a 19 year old. this isn't about Bryce Harper ranking fifth all time in SLG for a 19 year old, or Harper ranking seventh in OPS for a 19 year old, seventh in runs scored, eighth in total bases, fourth in homers, eighth in walks, and eighth in stolen bases. All as a 19 year old. This isn't about any of that. This is about Harper in a different context. This is about Bryce Harper as a centerfielder.
According to advanced metrics Harper has played not just a good or decent centerfield. Judging him by his 7.4 UZR and 30.7 UZR/150 Harper has played a great centerfield. Watch him play and there will be times when he miss judges a fly ball and a double goes over his head, but there are far more times that his short choppy strides carry him to the ball and he takes a hit away. He has made catches in both gaps, come in on sinking liners, and gone back on balls that would be over a lot of centerfielder's heads, and for most of thos catches he never has to leave his feet.
During the Nats five game losing streak they averaged 1.2 runs a game. for the season they have averaged 4.33 runs a game compared to an NL average of 4.23 and since the All-Star Break they have scored 4.59. There are very obvious reasons for all of these things. During the losing streak the Nats discovered one of the inevitable truths of baseball. If a team cannot score they cannot win. Here is another truth about the Nats offense that some might not realize. They are not a hit or miss offense.
Go all the way back to the Nats first five game losing streak at the end of April beginning of May and they averaged 1.4 runs a game. The Nats had a four game stretch with three at the Orioles and one at the Rockies in which they went 1-3 and scored 1.6 runs a game, but this is all pointing to a trend that once every two months the Nationals have a very bad stretch of games. If this is the pattern then the Nats next bad stretch of games will come at the end of October. If the Nats are still playing at that time then there is less reason to be upset.
Here is some of what we know about the Strasburg's innings limit. The ultimate innings cap appears to be 180 innings as Mike Rizzo told Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan that Strasburg will not exceed that number. We also know that the Nationals have a 50 page binder on how to handle Strasburg. The most important thing we know though is that this isn't exactly an innings limit, and while Mike Rizzo gave a number of 180 and Davey Johnson has recently said Strasburg will miss 3-4 starts at the end of the season no one outside of Mike Rizzo knows what Mike Rizzo is thinking and when he is going to pull the plug on Stephen Strasburg.
Quick, what do Ryan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, and Bryce Harper have in common? If you have been following this franchise as closely as I have then you would know that they are five of the Nationals eleven first round picks made since the team moved to DC. Of the players that the Nationals have drafted and who aren't on the major league roster one is retired and another never signed. Chris Marrero, Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, and Lucas Giolito are all still in the minors with Marrero having made it to the majors last season and it being far too early for any of the latter three.
As far as drafting has gone the Nationals have done a good job. Having five players from a five year span of first rounds on the roster sounds like a high percentage, but it isn't the entire story. Since moving to DC the Nats have also drafted Danny Espinosa, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, Steve Lombardozzi, and Tyler Moore. The Nationals also held onto Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina who were in the Expos farm system when they made the move to DC. Of the players currently on the 25 man roster 12 of them are from the Nats farm system.
With today's 4-1 loss to the Phillies the Nationals have now lost four games in a row for just the third time this season. The last being between June 15-19 to the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. One of the benefits to having a great pitching staff is that it is very difficult to have long losing streaks. Only once this season have the Nationals made it all the way through the rotation without a win, and they have had no losing streaks longer than five games. It is remarkable if thought about and demonstrates greatly the difference between a winning team and a losing team.
Put things in perspective with this losing streak and until the Nationals lost to the Phillies on Friday night they hadn't lost back to back games in the month of August, and with their 15 victories in the month the Nationals have clinched their fifth straight winning month on the season. Before the losing streak started the Nats were playing .700 ball since the All-Star break. They are a good team, but they aren't that good, and in reality they were due for a losing streak. Teams don't stay as hot as the Nationals were for an entire half of a season.
In seasons past this was when it started to feel like a drag. It hadn't gotten to the point where baseball was close to ending and you knew you were going to miss it. Instead it was at a point where you were starting to forget what it felt like to be home on a Sunday afternoon, or what it was like to watch a movie at night. For almost five months baseball, and mostly bad Nationals baseball, had been your life. This season has been much different, but that doesn't mean it isn't time to start looking forward to the off-season and what the Nationals should do to remain a contending team.
A lot of the Nationals off-season needs depend on what Adam LaRoche and the Nationals decide to do with his option. If Adam LaRoche is back then the Nationals best move might be to do nothing. To run the line-up they had this season back out there and hope for better health and natural improvements from Harper. If LaRoche does return and the Nationals do still want to move forward with a signing of a centerfield/lead-off type like Michael Bourn then it may be at the expense of trading Morse or moving him to the bench, but that is a type of issue that is dealt with when it emerges. If the Nationals want Michael Bourn then the presence of LaRoche or Morse won't stop them from making that move and they will deal with the talent overflow when they have it.
Stephen Strasburg is being shutdown. That is unless Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras are willing to backtrack on what they have both been saying for the entire season. Strasburg wants to pitch and has said he feels fine, the Nats would have to pry the ball out of his hands, and that he has plenty left in the tank. Mike Rizzo does things for the long term success of the franchise, and when it comes to issues of a medical nature it is always better to be safe than sorry. So, unless something drastic and unforeseen happen Strasburg is being shutdown.
As it stands right now John Lannan would be the pitcher that would replace Strasburg in the rotation, but it may not be Lannan, and it may not even be a pitcher currently in the Nats system. Consider this idea. The non-waiver trade deadline came to an end on July 31 without the Nats being able to find a pitcher that could make 2-3 starts at the end of the season, and the Nats at this point would be foolish to trade for the type of pitcher that could clear waivers and remove Detwiler from the rotation.
After posting the editor's note on the previous post, the Citizens and I decided that the best way to clear up exactly how the WMATA late closing system works is to post the email verbatim. Here it is:
(Editor’s Note: After this piece posted I received an email from WMATA clarifying the process. The only thing WMATA needs is $29,500 to put the agreement in place, not $29,500 per game. It can be done from game 1 of the season and roll over until it is needed, at which time the Nats can put down another $29,500 to continue the agreement. With this knowledge, the need for an agreement between the Nats and WMATA becomes even more of a no-brainer.)
There’s been a lot of fuss made over the issue between Metro and the Nationals and rightly so. I just wanted to put some actual numbers out there. To start, between 2005-2012, the Nats have averaged 4 games per season lasting more than 4 hours.
Next, We all have been made aware that WMATA wants a $29,500 deposit in its hand, in advance, to ensure the possibility of staying open past normal operating hours. WMATA has said that the deposit is refundable, but not what percentage of it is refundable. For the sake of argument, let’s say that 60% of the unused deposit is refunded.
Here is a topic for debate. Do the Washington Nationals have the best infield in baseball? It is a question that can boggle the mind for days. The main reason is that the offensive numbers are easy to look up and are grounded in mostly tangible things. Except for rare instances where an official scorer makes an odd decision a hit is a hit and there can't be much debate about it, and a walk and a strikeout are always just that. For the most part offensive stats are grounded to tangible things.
Defensive stats, on the other hand, are much more subjective. Even a stat like UZR that many people put a lot of weight behind are subjective. They are based on the opinion of a person sitting in a stadium deciding if the average short stop could have made a play or not. Many people smarter than me say that the defensive stats we have now are 60% accurate. The advanced stats we use today are better than anything we have had in the past, but they still aren't very good, and don't tell us as much as we could garner from watching the game.
The current version of the Washington Nationals remind people of a lot of different teams. There have been comparison made to the 2006 Tigers and the 2008 Rays by different people this season, but there is another comparison. This one isn't so much with the team as it is with three starting pitchers that have a chance to pitch together for a long time.
Before the 1993 season the Braves stole the biggest free agent on the market, Greg Maddux, from the Cubs and out of the open arms of the Yankees. It was the start of something magical. A collection of three dominate starters in Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. Those three would pitch as part of the same rotation until Smoltz went into the bullpen in 2001, Glavine left for the division rival Mets in 2003, and Maddux departed for the Cubs in 2004, but for eight seasons they were the most dominate top of the rotation baseball has ever seen.
Frank and Susan recap an excellent second half so far the Washington Nationals, and then say their piece on the one story most actual Nats fans are sick of hearing about: Shutting Down Steven Strasburg. A recap of Tommy John surgery, why there is an innings limit, why the work-arounds won't work, and what happens next. All this and Frank lays into the media a bit, how big a deal is losing Strasburg, and maybe a little something after the music if you keep listening.
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This is again a test of our memories. A journey back to what we thought and what was expected of the Washington Nationals. It is August 19 and the Nationals stand just 12 wins away from matching the win total most predicted they would end up with at season's end. In order for the Nationals to finish with that win total and no better they would have to play .285 baseball in their remaining 42 games. With the way the Nationals have played all season long that seems unlikely.
Instead of thinking all the way back to the beginning of the season instead think of April. Think about how the Nationals couldn't score runs, and kept winning games on odd plays like wild pitches, or how in April four of the five Nationals starters had ERA's under 2.00. If that low scoring great pitching month did anything it confirmed the thoughts that the Nationals were no better than an 86 win team. That the Nationals were a team built with a 90 win pitching staff and a 70 win offense. Things have changed a bit since then. The pitching staff has fallen off a bit, but still is pitching at a level of excellence while the offense has risen to being one of the better ones in baseball.