The Riggleman thing is already out of my system, so if it’s basically out of yours, you’ve come to the right place. While everyone else is going to spend the day talking about the former Nationals manager, I’d like to talk about the team. Specifically, how much praise this team is getting right now. As I mentioned yesterday, ESPN.com’s MLB page was co-opted by the resignation news, but for a few minutes at least, their front cover was all about how great the Nats were playing. First up was a story by Tim Kurkjian:
Kurkjian speaks of something that this club has now that it never had before: a winning attitude. And that’s more about having guys that actually care about winning and are upset by losses. Not just guys playing baseball and collecting paychecks. But more importantly, he speaks about the talent that this team has been able to acquire.
He calls Ryan Zimmerman the best playing on an emerging team. About Wilson Ramos, he says, “Ramos, 23, is a very good young player who is only going to improve. He’s proficient at calling a game, he’s a good receiver and he has great power… the Nationals now have their catcher for the next decade.” Then he goes on to praise both (yes, I said both) Espinosa and Desmond:
The double-play combination is among the best in the game when it comes to youth and athleticism. Danny Espinosa, 24, a switch-hitting second baseman, has 13 homers and 45 RBIs. And, Zimmerman said, “he can really pick it.” So can Desmond, 25, who weighs 215 pounds; has tremendous range, especially to his left; a great arm; and, according to one National, “has learned not to take a bad at-bat into the field.” Desmond did that a lot last year, when he made 34 errors. He has made nine errors this season.
“It was not my at-bats. I am doing things mechanically the right way this year,” Desmond said. “I know what I’m doing now.”
Desmond hasn’t exactly been hitting all that well this year, in fact, it’s been awful. So he’s clearly not taking bad at bats onto the field, cause he has so damn many of them. But he’s been fielding well enough that he’ll at least get this year to figure the bat out.
Kurkjian also praises Mike Morse,
the key has been Morse, 29, who began his career in 2005 as a shortstop and opened the season as the every-day left fielder. Since he became the every-day first baseman May 22 after LaRoche‘s injury, he has more homers (11) and more RBIs (32) than any player in the NL.
Unfortunately, the article also gives credit to Riggleman for helping this team hustle, play the right way, and gel. We’ll see if that can be easily replaced soon enough, I suppose.
The Technical Praise
Next up on the “loving the Nats” docket was an Insider article written by Jay Jaffe. Coming off of the game winning Ramos blast, Jaffe starts with by stating that Ramos “is among a handful of youngsters showing signs that they can be cornerstones of the franchise’s next winning team. The Nationals’ long nightmare might finally be over.”
He noted that while some guys are outperforming their PECOTA projections on offense, there are enough guys underperforming that we shouldn’t expect a huge correction in store for the team as a whole. And some of those guys who are outperforming projection are young guys, which means they might have grown up faster or are just plain been better than PECOTA thought.
Their run prevention ability has been better than expected, thanks to some great pitching. Those pitchers might not be this good all year, but defense has helped them out, especially up the middle. “They’ve gotten especially good work afield thanks to the keystone combo of Desmond and Espinosa, ranking third in Defensive Efficiency (.704).” He does talk about one pitcher who’s doing great work that may be sustainable – Jordan Zimmermann.
The 25-year-old righty isn’t a dominating Strasburg type but, despite a middling strikeout rate, he’s fourth in the league in home run rate (0.4 per nine), seventh in walk rate (1.8 per nine) and 10th in K/BB ratio (3.5), and only Cole Hamels, Jair Jurrjens and Roy Halladay have topped his 79 percent rate of quality starts.
All in all, he doesn’t think this is a playoff team this season. But he does see them turning in to a good team, which is a big step from what they’ve been for the last 5 years. And oh yeah, he says, Strasburg and Harper are coming.
The Promising Nats
And then later yesterday, after Rigs was officially gone, Rob Neyer wrote about how promising the team is. He goes through a quick list of some of the typical reasons why the Nats are so promising. He notes that Werth will improve, and that Zimmerman is one of the best players in baseball. He talks about Ramos and Espinosa as potential stars down that road and that Zimmermann AND Lannan are good young starters. And of course, he notes the two #1/#1s that are on their way.
With all that they have going for them, he concludes by saying,”if you’re a manager today and you could choose any club for the next five seasons, the Nationals might make your Top 10 list.” Top 10 isn’t exactly #1, but could anyone have said that about this team a year or two ago?