A Big Decision

May 31, 2012

Because I’m a grown ass man, and I get paid every 2 weeks so I can do stupid things with my money, I’m thinking of buying a Nats authentic jersey. It’s a big commitment, as I have a real job and don’t wear jerseys normally, it will be only used when I go to Nats Park. I won’t get more than one, so whoever I get, it better be one I’m happy to wear at all times, and someone who will definitely be with the team a while. Help me decide, here’s who I’m thinking:

  • Bryce Harper – An obvious choice, this guy is already a star and will be on the team at least through 2018. He satisfies the good player and timeline requirements, but certainly won’t be a unique jersey to have.
  • Stephen Strasburg – The other obvious one, Cy Young candidate and long term guy will also check both boxes but also be a pretty common site on the backs of my fellow wannabes in the stadium.
  • Ryan Zimmerman – The face of the franchise is probably the #3 guy in terms of popularity. But I’ve always loved third basemen and he’s such a fun player to watch, I’d have no problem sporting this. He’s also here for the long haul, my only worry is if I buy his jersey, his shoulder will immediately fall off.
  • Gio Gonzalez – He’s becoming my favorite pitcher on this team, the guy that makes Strasburg go “hey that guy’s got alot of strikeouts!” The transition to the NL has treated him well, of course another round through the NL East and repeated exposure to the same hitters could turn him into a good pitcher rather than the Cy Young candidate he looks to be right now. He’s also here for a while, but would I be buying the jersey of the third best starter? Does that matter?
  • Danny Espinosa – This one I hesitated even putting on the list. He’s one of my favorites on the team, but is he here long term? Can he hit enough to be a starting middle infielder? Is Lombardozzi going to help instigate a trade? No, I don’t think I’m ready to get an authentic Espinosa jersey, maybe just a $25 T-shirt jersey for him…

Who Are the Nationals All Stars?

May 30, 2012

The Nationals will be in an interesting situation this July. While they may or may not still be in first place, they will have spent at least the first two months of the season in or near the top spot. With only another month to go, there is a good chance that they will get multiple guys to the All Star game. So who is gonna end up there? Let’s start with the hitting:

Ian Desmond

The shortstop is hitting .268/.293/.455 – the low OBP is an issue but it has been mitigated by serious power and stellar defense. While he is tied for the lead among NL SS in terms of HRs with 8, he is behind in overall numbers to quite a few guys. The SS leaders include Furcal (.332/.391/.461), Tulowitzki (.288/.362/.486), Lowrie (.280/.354/.484), Castro (.313/.322/.443) and Ruben Tejada (.305/.362/.400), so he’s got some real competition.

Adam LaRoche

LaRoche is in a bit of a slump, but he’s still got 7 HRs and is hitting .282/.378/.515. This ranks him 3rd in OPS in the NL, but far behind Votto (.321/.460/.595) and Brian LaHair (.312/.402/.596), but it’s a pretty solid third compared to what comes after. He needs to get hot again, but there is a better case for him among his peers than Desmond, probably.

Bryce Harper

Harper’s numbers have caught up to some of those expectations, thanks to a few hot weeks. He’s now batting .284/.368/.523 with 4 HRs (and 4 triples).  That OPS actually ranks him 11th in the NL among outfielders, and there are definitely more than a half a dozen guys that are more deserving than him (Kemp, Braun, Beltran, Melky, Ethier, CarGo, McCutchen, Stanton…), but his numbers certainly show he wouldn’t be an awful pick, so fan voting could bring him along because of popularity. Then again, the NL manager could choose to do so for the excitement it would add.

That’s all I thought even deserved mention in terms of offense. So, on to the pitching:

Gio Gonzalez

Gio’s been the Nats best starter by almost all measures, and one of the best in the league. He’s 3rd in ERA (2.04) behind Beachy and Kershaw, 2nd in Ws (7) behind Hamels and Lynn, and 1st in Ks. The case could be made that at this point, he’s been the best starter in the NL, although quite a few other guys could also win that argument.

Stephen Strasburg

Despite a few non-perfect starts recently, Strasburg has seen his ERA fall to only 14th best in the NL (2.64), but it’s happened fast. His 5-1 record still looks nice, and he’s 3rd in the league in Ks (70). His next few starts will likely determine if he’s going back into the top 10 or falling further out, or possibly even taking a few weeks vacation.

Jordan Zimmermann

The third member of this team’s big three has the third best ERA among them, and it puts him 17th in the NL. His strikeout numbers aren’t impressive, ranking down at 48th in the league, and his record isn’t gonna help either, as thanks to a complete lack of run support he’s only 3-5. Then again, since fans don’t pick pitchers, someone could get creative and bring all three of the top pitchers.

Craig Stammen

The Nats are no strangers to sending late inning relievers who aren’t closers to the All Star game. Stammen’s managed to compile a 3-0 record with a 1.65 ERA, and in 27 1/3 innings he’s struck out 29 and only walked 6. Although Clippard has gotten the most attention (both because Tyler’s been very good and because he was so good last year), Stammen has been the dominant force in this team’s bullpen.

Those are, in my opinion, the most realistic possibilities for the All Star team at this point in the season. There are other guys who could do something in the next month and raise eyebrows, but as of now, these guys have been the best on the team.

I think it is tough to imagine Desmond making it at this point, due to the strength of the competition. LaRoche has a better shot, but I’m not sure he’ll make it. Harper might if he keeps this up, and because it would create some buzz. I think Gio is a shoe-in at this point. Strasburg I am less confident in – but I think he’ll come out with a few strong starts and make it. Like Harper, he is a guy people want to see, and he’ll have numbers to justify selection, even if he pushes out a pitcher or two who are more deserving. Stammen is a nice story, but his role isn’t prominent enough – remember last year Clippard was “The Setup Man” whereas Stammen is a reliever that they use when they want a guy to get outs.

So in the end, I’m picking three guys – Gio, Strasburg and Harper. Of course we have another month of baseball to determine who goes, but at this point, what do you think?

Harper Heats Up

May 29, 2012

We’ve all seen what Bryce Harper can do over the last month, and it’s been pretty impressive. The arm, the aggressiveness, the speed, the eye – all these things make us amateurs feel like we are scouts. For most of us, when we can identify a tool that a player has it means its spectacular, not just very good. And that shows just how good Harper is and will be. But his numbers hadn’t quite caught up to the impression he was making. We saw that he was going to be great at the plate, but he wasn’t actually producing at that level – until now.

Over the last 15 games, Harper has been on a tear. He has hit .345/.424/.655 with 4 HRs in 66 PAs. He’s shown patience, and now power. He’s also shown the ability to adapt – he was struck out on a silly slow pitch by Livan Hernandez, only to put one in the seats in his next AB. He has adapted to major league pitching faster than I thought he would. Although a great two weeks is likely a hot streak, and he will cool off at some point, it’s clear now more than ever that he belongs at this level, and he is a valuable contributor now.

It’s amazing how much he’s done in one month of play. On May 12, he was hitting .213/.309/.340, and we were impressed with what he was able to do. Now, he’s up to .286/.372/.514. What do you think about the kid now?

The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 6

May 23, 2012

On this weeks episode of Nationals Review Episode 6 Colm and Charlie talk:

  • Strasburg
    • Game on Sunday
    • Innings limit
    • Rest time?
  • 5th starter dilemma
  • O’s – Nats series
  • Gio/LaRoche and awards
  • Danny Espinosa
  • Lineup adjustments – Desi / Lombardozzi
  • Upcoming Schedule
  • Cory Brown
  • Random Thoughts??

No More Closing Time for Rodriguez

May 23, 2012

Henry Rodriguez, has been relieved of his duties as final reliever. He is no longer the closer, after blowing 2 saves in his last 8 opportunities, and almost blowing a third save two nights ago. Until Drew Storen is activated, or possibly Brad Lidge, the Nats will go closer-by-committee, although Henry will not be part of that committee.

I assume most people agree with this, but I wonder just HOW MUCH they agree with it. Let me know your thoughts:

Danny Espinosa’s Return

May 21, 2012

Danny Espinosa is having, by almost any measure, a terrible season at the plate. Through 165 PAs (roughly 1/4 of a full season) he’s hitting .214/.294/.338, which are pretty horrible numbers in all three categories. But the fact is, it’s still a small sample size. The numbers alone shouldn’t be an excuse to sit him, because it doesn’t tell the whole story. And the whole story is a bit more interesting, as he has done much better in May than he did in April.

Start playing the arbitrary endpoints game with Espinosa, and you can recognize that he his hitting much better in the last few weeks. If you go back to May 4, Danny is hitting .263/.323/.491 in 63 PAs – as the season started on April 5, this is more or less removing his first month of play. If he hits this well for the rest of the season, he will most likely have a better final line than his middle infield counterpart, Ian Desmond, who is hitting .275/.296/.456 right now after a torrid start. Now that’s not a slight on Desmond, who has really contributed this year. (In fact, Desmond’s OBP is low, but his line is great for his position. As a whole, shortstops are hitting .253/.307/.365 this year).  But it does highlight what Espinosa might be able to do compared with Desmond’s best.

This was something I mentioned just 11 days ago, when I saw on MLB Network’s evening run down of the games an interview with Robinson Cano. Cano had raised his OPS from .657 to .767 in the span of 4 days – he’s now up to hitting .309/.362/.481, almost normal for him. His reason for the improvement? “Luck”. That was all. It’s still early, and after seeing that I said:

So if Espinosa has a similar 4 days to Cano, he’d be at .222/.304/.327.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nationals in Contention… for Awards

May 17, 2012

We’re just about two months into the season, so while the sample sizes are small, we’re only a week or two away from 1/3 of the season being done. Especially for starting pitchers, who only need about 2 more starts to get that first third out of the way. So yes it’s early, but a few guys on the Nats are putting together resumes that will look good when end of year awards are being decided.

Starting with pitching, Gio Gonzalez is putting together what could be a strong Cy Young contending season. Among qualified starters, here how he ranks in the league among qualified NL starters:

  • 1st in Ks (60) and K/9 (11.10)
  • 3rd in OPS against (.499)
  • 9th in ERA (2.22)
  • Tied for 2nd in W (5)
  • 8th in WHIP (0.99)

Speaking of strong pitching, Jordan Zimmermann actually ranks right above Gio in ERA (2.14) and WHIP (0.97), but his 2-3 record may hurt any award chances. And his 32 Ks tie him with Lohse and Dickey for 47th in the league. However, he is 7 for 7 in quality starts, so that consistancy could pay off later in the year. Strasburg also has looked great, although he ranks behind Gio and Zimm in ERA and WHIP, he has been dominant in all but one start. But he might not even qualify for the ERA crown in October, so he probably can’t win an award.

Adam LaRoche, perhaps surprisingly considering how he normally starts, is also working on an award winning season. Here’s how he ranks among qualifiers in the NL: Read the rest of this entry »