Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Frustrating April ends with a thud

Associated Press
Davey Johnson was at a loss for words after this latest loss.
ATLANTA — The time-tested mantra of "It's still early" can be trotted out a little while longer, but its days are numbered. With the calendar about to shift to May, the Nationals have now played one-sixth of the 2013 season, and they haven't played much of it all that well.

Tuesday night's 8-1 drubbing at the hands of the Braves was the most recent, and perhaps ugliest, example. It concluded a frustrating April for the Nationals with a 13-14 record, and it left just about everyone at a loss for words.

"Do we have to talk about this one?" manager Davey Johnson joked as he opened his postgame media session.

Whether or not they felt like dissecting their third straight loss in public, the Nationals were perhaps preparing to discuss it in private, with Ian Desmond going around the clubhouse afterward telling teammates not to leave, a fairly obvious sign of an impending team meeting.
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peric said...

Excellent synopsis avoiding individual performances and projecting a holistic view of the season so far.

But a lot of chemistry has to do with the lineup and the components therein and how they're lined up.

In this case Mike Rizzo broke something that was the furthest from broken last Fall. Now they have to find a new dynamic from a new lineup at some point soon.

Grandstander said...

You really get the feeling this is a team awaiting a spark. Something needs to happen to just turn over this engine. We thought we saw it with the back to back 1-hitters against the Reds, but then it just died down in Atlanta.

I don't know what it's going to take, but we're going to need that spark soon because this team is a far, far way away from playing to its potential.

Eric said...

Good things happened after the team meeting in August during a skid...

peric, we were petty uneven last fall if I recall correctly. In fact, it feels like we've picked up right where we left off. I think we're somewhere between over-thinking everything and the league having us figured out.

Life in the spotlight...

SonnyG10 said...

I am sorry folks. This is all my fault. Last November I predicted they would have 106 regular season wins..............I just didn't realize it would take them two seasons to do it. :)

Really, for me, this year is learning how to be a fan of a good team. I've never had anything but bad baseball teams to root for in the past and I really don't know how to act with a good team that is playing poorly. One thing is for sure. This is my team and I'll never give up on them. I don't care how many bandwagoners fall off the wagon, I'll never be one of them. GYFNG! Got a new month to work with now.

peric said...

Under the heading of some early "concern" about nine straight losses to the ATL dating back to last year and a lefty ATL pitcher coming up?

Perhaps Zim was scratched from the PNats game last night, perhaps to join the team for tomorrow's game?

I note that Anthony Rendon appeared to be saying adieu when he thanked the fans for their support? I don't think we'll see Chad Tracy or Lombo in the game tomorrow ... but who knows?

Secret wasian man said...

Nice to see Ian lead a team meeting. Maybe when all is said and done, we will realize they are just not any good.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

I can't help commenting on the different managerial approaches between Gonzalez and Johnson. Freddie changes his personnel, juggles his lineup, and puts the players out there who give his team its best chance to win on any given day. Davey keeps sending out the same guys, night after night, regardless of how well, or how badly, they are playing.

Freddie is playing to win, Davey to keep his clubhouse happy. Davey should have been using Tyler Moore to spell La Roche, and either Lombo or Rendon to spell Espinoza. And what is Chad Tracy doing playing 3rd base? Is everybody happy now?

I notice that Danny has reverted back to swinging at high FBs, and, as always, missing virtually every one of them. His K rate is starting to go up. The guy never learns. Uggla has actually been playing better defense than Espinoza lately.

La Roche will come around, but why let him drop all the way down to .140, and why keep him in the heart of the order all the way down? Patience is one thing, but failure to adjust to reality is another.

Tracy is another Mendoza line guy, as is TyMo, who is so little used he is starting to rust out.

Freddie keeps his guys sharp by playing them when circumstances give them their best chance to perform at their best, like using Schafer in RF against Strasburg and Johnson against Gio. You know, platoon a LH hitter with a RH hitter to give your team its best shot to win.

Davey's got the tools. He refuses to use them. You end up doing things like sending 4 Mendoza line hitters against one of the best rotations in baseball, and then you can't explain why they don't score.

JayB said...

So.....Njack now has finally see the light on Danny....that is progress at least...now we just have to get Davey to stop over valuing "his guys" and bench then or send them down to AAA.

To me the biggest problem is the lack of leadership from Davey down. Ian D is about the only one who seems to get it. You play how you practice and if you practice like you are too good to practice this is what you get.

Spring training camp is the root of this problem. Davey ran it like it was a country club. You see the results. Pitcher not ready to pitch. Hitters not ready to hit. Now they are pressing and it is too late to do much about their lack of preparation.

Looks to me like a .500 team this year. Many would say that is just baseball. I would say that is baseball without leadership.

jeeves said...

Marrero to first, Rendon to second, Espi to Syracuse, LaRoche to the bench, Johnson to the front office. There done. Of course, not one of these moves would even be considered. To me it is interesting that what makes Johnson a good manager (supposedly), his sticking with players is exactly what makes him a poor manager. I'll never forget that last playoff game. It was the poorest management of pitchers I'd ever seen. Tammy Wynette would have been proud. 'Stand by your man....'

baseballswami said...

I have to agree about Danny- the rotator cuff experiment is not working. Davey is sacrificing the team in order to help Danny and Adam. Every day you see decisions that appear to be made because someone deserves something or other. Don 't get me wrong-- I still think they will gradually get better and may go on a huge tear at some point. We need to stop obsessing about ATL and October and just go day to day. I watched Bryce Begins on my DVR late last night. If you haven't you must-- compelling. I love this kid . He is truly a special person. I will watch him every day just to see what he does. JZ tonight-- the stopper. Zim soon. Hope this clubhouse finds a way to tighten up. Winning is more fun. April is over-- no magic bullet, but maybe a mental sign.

Gonat said...

There's no shame losing to a great pitcher but losing 8-1 and watching so many uninspiring at-bats was sickening.

When a boss keeps rewarding an employee for poor performance wouldn't even be tolerated by a bad fry cook at McDonald's by a boss with a brain if the kid continually burns the fries after being shown the proper way to do it.

Gonat said...

Laddie Blah Blah said...
I can't help commenting on the different managerial approaches between Gonzalez and Johnson.

Here's the problem. Everything Davey did last year worked fairly well overall until he did it in the post-season where there's no tomorrow and he got out-coached by a Rookie Manager in Matheny. Danny's 1-15, EJax's suckitude, and leaving Gio in there to get his full 5 innings (smelling the blood) in Game 5 so he could earn the W were all big mistakes.

Two nights ago, constantly forgetting the situation like he did with Strasburg on the mound where a 3-2 game was possibly going to win that game and maybe play 1 run at a time is not within his lexicon.

Old dawg better learn new tricks.

Candide said...

Laddie Blah Blah said...I can't help commenting on the different managerial approaches between Gonzalez and Johnson.

Funny, I remember last year, after the Nats had carved up the Barves early in the season, going to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's web site and reading their take on the game.

The blog posts there were horrible. You'd have thought Gonzalez was your idiot cousin's stupider brother.

This stretch makes me appreciate what a hole RZimm's absence makes in the lineup. With him gone, Werth gets moved out of the 2 slot to give Harper better protection. So instead of having Span/Werth giving the following hitters a dozen pitches to watch between them, you get Span and a strikeout/flyout machine. So if Span doesn't get on base, you'll need BOTH Harper and Werth to get hits to produce a run, because you have oh-for-April-Adam coming up with two outs.

Put RZimm back in there, and Werth back in #2, and all that changes. You might even be able to afford the luxury of having Espinosa in the lineup.

SCNatsFan said...

There is no shame in sending Danny down to give him some at bats against lesser pitching and try to get his groove back. If he goes and flails as badly there as he does here then at what point do you just assume he does not have the eye to hit top level pitching. It has to send a horrid message to the team that you can continue to underproduce yet not be accountable for your results if you are a teachers pet.

Gonat said...

Edwin Jackson 0-4 and 8 earned runs in 4 2/3 against the Padres.

baseballswami said...

Hear, hear!! Too many contradictory messages being sent here. You know, believing in someone just does not actually make them play better. It's kind of the Tinkerbell school of managing. I am shocked at how there are no consequences for bad decisions over and over , poor at bats over and over, balls to the backstop over and over. Any one can lose at this point. So what does it matter if someone else goes out there who is willing to kick it up a notch? And I don't mean one game-- you can't settle in on one game. Make a new plan, keep it for one or two series before judging. Sit someone for more than one game- and no late game pinch failing. I do think if we are still struggling at the all star break, the organization might bring in the 2014 manager to let him get settled in like Davey did.

Gonat said...

SCNatsFan said...
There is no shame in sending Danny down to give him some at bats against lesser pitching and try to get his groove back.

I've read someone who has been saying that since last June. I think the quote went something like why are the Nats trying to teach someone to hit on Major League time when the outcomes count. Teach him in the Minors.

That's right, it was the Batter's Eye fault or one of the dozen other excuses used by Espinosa. There's no accountability with Davey's favorites. How wasn't Danny benched for Sunday after that Saturday charade?

Joe Seamhead said...

I'm with SonnyG10 @ 1:15 a.m.
Well said.

SCNatsFan said...

No one has seen less in Espi then I have but I think it is unfair to ask him to just flip a switch and be a good hitter. After the first half of his rookie year pitchers have learned to just start something in the strike zone and have it tail away - way away - and he will still swing. He insistence on being a switch hitter when his approach is so poor from the left side is so frustrating to watch. Send him to the minors, retool him as a right handed bat and see if he can make it - and although I doubt he does, I am sincerely rooting for the kid. He is simple overmatched at this level right now and even his biggest supporters are quiet now. I'm not saying the Nats will suddenly become a .750 team - there are alot of problems to fix here - but we have to start fixing the things we know need fixing.

Rabbit34 said...

Referencing the other article, the Marlins may be falling, but at least they'll have the Nationals to land on!! I can't believe Johnson keep on going with so many links in the chain "broke". Some links will be coming back from the shop, but I doubt they'll be fixed.

Rabbit34 said...


Whack-a-Mule said...

Mule C.P.A. looks at the numbers:
-At 13-14 entering May, 135 games remain.
-In order to qualify for a Wild Card Playoff spot in the National League this year, likely 95 wins will be necessary.
-Ergo, win 82 of the next 135 games = .607 baseball.
-This remains possible, 'tho highly improbable with the current level of team play (starting pitching, relief pitching except closer, hitting, base-running and defense are all mediocre or worse).
-This is a TEAM issue, not one or two individual players.
-There are no simple, direct or obvious solutions.
-"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Don said...

When it's their game, it's their game is some lame stuff from Gio. Gio's poor control is his (serious and continuing) problem not some lucky bounces that went the Braves' way (say like off of Harper's glove and over the wall).

Get Some Players said...

When does Jeff Kobernus get his shot?

darchivist said...

My son sat down next to me at Sunday's game... Dad, he said, I don't care if the Reds beat us today, but please, I can't stand to watch the Nats beat themselves. He's 13. Ouch.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Put RZimm back in there, and Werth back in #2, and all that changes. You might even be able to afford the luxury of having Espinosa in the lineup."

Ryan has always been the key guy for this team, this year. Espinoza does not belong in the 2-hole. Davey already tried that, last year, and even he must know, by now, that Danny does not belong there. Zim hitting behind Werth and the Cyborg gives them their best lineup, given their present 25-man roster. I think ALR comes around, eventually.

They won with Espinoza last year, so they could do it, again, but only if Zim is healthy enough to perform to his capabilities.

I will not give up on this team. They are too good.

"This is a TEAM issue, not one or two individual players."

They should be managed as a baseball team. It's not a fraternity with special privileges for the in crowd. You perform, you play. You don't, you sit, and someone else gets a shot.

Last year, Simmons was not going to be the Braves SS of the future, but he won the job because he performed better than any other candidate when he got the chance. That's how playing time should be allocated. Now the Braves have one of the best young short stops in the league. He got the job on merit. What a concept!

A DC Wonk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sec. 3, My Rocking Fire Sofa said...

Lee Elia called. He left a message, but I'm not sure I should print it here.

Rich P. said...

Perspective, within a game or a season, is hard to acquire. It’s tough to step back yet almost shocking when you do. The Nats’ play has been heckled with cries of, “Where is that exciting team from last year?” Yet that team is right before our eyes. Just 365 days ago, the Nats were in the midst of two months of mundane play, going 27-26. That’s almost a third of their entire season! The difference? That stretch came immediately after a 14-4 start. It wasn’t noticed. But it happened.

A DC Wonk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You know maybe this team is just not that good: the bullpen is weak; there is no bench; our infield is poor both defensively and offensively; and our starting pitching is inconsistent.

The team lacks focus and direction. I believe the tone for this season was set in ST. This team was not prepared either mentally or physically. I think the players and the coaches thought this would be a "walk" with every team just rolling over. This combined with Johnson's refusal to manage his team finds us in this current situation .

The team is rudderless and floundering badly. I think the onus is directly on Johnson to take control. This means playing players like Moore. Moore at least gets a hit when he starts. I do not know what you do with Bernadina. I think you bring someone in to replace Tracy. If Haren falters again then you DL him and bring in a Karns or Rosenbloom for a spot start. Give the younger players a chance. Shake things up at least.

A DC Wonk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A DC Wonk said...

Responding to a couple of comments:

Freddie is playing to win, Davey to keep his clubhouse happy.

Oh, please. Davey's a hall-of-fame manager. He gives his players a lot of rope, and it almost always pays off in the long run.

In order to qualify for a Wild Card Playoff spot in the National League this year, likely 95 wins will be necessary.

Where in the world do you get _that_ from? Last year it took 88, the year before it would have taken 89, the year before that just 86.

And then, we have in the same post above:

I think ALR comes around, eventually.


You perform, you play. You don't, you sit, and someone else gets a shot.

Can't you see that the above two sentences are contradictory? *If* you think ALR will come around eventually, then you play him, because you don't work your way out of a slump while sitting on the bench.

A DC Wonk said...

They should be managed as a baseball team. It's not a fraternity with special privileges for the in crowd. You perform, you play. You don't, you sit, and someone else gets a shot.

Last year, Simmons was not going to be the Braves SS of the future, but he won the job because he performed better than any other candidate when he got the chance. That's how playing time should be allocated. Now the Braves have one of the best young short stops in the league. He got the job on merit. What a concept!

No -- that's not how playing time should be allocated. You also have to factor in "ceiling" "potential" etc.

Here's a great example: everybody and their brother and most everybody at NI was b@tching and moaning that Desmond was getting too much playing time -- that since he hadn't learned to field or hit after so many years, he'd never learn. He was a light hitter in 2011, and salvaged the season with a solid Aug and Sept. Then in 2012 he had an early season slump (late Apr to mid-May) where he batted .217, with zero walks and 13 K's. The "preferred" NI solution to that was to move Espi to SS, Lombo to 2B, and get rid of Desmond.

Davey stuck with him. Was it "good old boy"? Was it loyalty? Was it perverse incentives?

No -- plain and simply it was that Davey thought he was an All-Star caliber SS and that he'd reach his potential by playing.

Now, nobody's 100% perfect on those predictions. But Davey & Rizzo are right way more often than they are wrong -- and _that's_ why guys like Espi are playing. Perhaps they are wrong on Espi (indeed, it certainly seems that way to me), but Rizzo and Davey have earned _my_ benefit of the doubt.

Teams that are patient use the first third of the season to "see what we got".

NatsJack in Florida said...

Apparently, alot of the posters are inexperienced season long baseball observers and have little historical reference to how complete seasons are played out.

I must admit, though that this team is playing uninspired, inconsistent baseball.

Davey knows how to handle this. The 2 day bench role foe Espinosa is a start. That could and should lead to other changes including a couple of roster moves, as well.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Plenty of baseball ahead.

Dave said...

NatsJack just summed up the way I'm currently looking at the team and the season. It's a long season--but it's hard to watch right now. (I didn't even watch last night's game except for the first half-inning, I must admit.)

But I have to agree with what SonnyG10 said at 1:15 AM: I, too, don't know how to be a fan of a good team.

For all those years I was a pretty good fan of a bad team, and I'd rather not go back to those days. But a good team carries expectations that may or may not be fulfillable. (Not sure that's a word, but you know what I mean.)

We don't even have warm weather yet. That will change things. And other teams have travails much greater than our own. The Marlins have lost Stanton for some time to come, which removes any reason for a Miami baseball fan to go to that brand-new ballpark.

We will survive here in Natstown. GYFNG.

SCNatsFan said...

I just don't agree benching Espi is the plan. He's not a pinch hitter and needs at bats. Let him get those at bats but let him get them in Syracuse. If he hits there will be a spot on the big club for him. Last thing we need right now is yet another member of the goon squad who can't hit a lick.

Candide said...

Dave said...(I didn't even watch last night's game except for the first half-inning, I must admit.)

You're such a quitter. Cunegonde and I watched until the top of the second. When Gio got Hudson to 2-0, I muttered, "Oh, for God's sake, don't walk the leadoff hitter; he's the pitcher, dammit..."

He didn't. He gave up a double off the left field wall.

At that point, Cunegonde and I decided it was a Netflix evening, and we loaded the DVD player with episode 3 of the HBO John Adams series. Much more enjoyable, though there was a moment of trepidation when I thought there might be a possibility we would see a naked Paul Giamatti.

Fortunately, that did not happen. But it still probably wouldn't have been as ugly as watching the Nats last night.

SCNatsFan said...

Candide watching the Nats right now is like watching Giamatti nude. Still for some reason I cannot turn away.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Davey is getting a lot of grief but he can't swing the bats for these guys.

1. At the end of the 2011 season Davey transformed Ian Desmond's approach to hitting. It worked well and paid dividends.

2. Jayson Werth thrived in the leadoff

3. Bryce Harper was the team's X Factor

4. Gio Gonzalez was a 20+ game winner

This season Davey tried to work his magic by getting Espinosa working with better mechanics and a more aggressive "see it, hit it" approach. It's not working because Espinosa just doesn't have what it takes to be a good hitter right now at this level. His swing & miss % tells the story and his poor contact tells the rest. Sure, every once in a while he barrels up one but at what expense.

Adam LaRoche is a different story. He's been a consistent RBI man and will be 34 years old later this year and clearly hasn't found his swing yet. If he was batting 7th maybe the impact wouldn't be as bad, only Espi has to occupy that spot.

Between Espi and LaRoche they have become rally killers all season long and there just seems to be this spillover effect causing the offense to stall too often and most of this team is playing with low energy which is leading to too many mental mistakes and physical errors.

JD said...

My 2 cents worth:

- I do think it's time to get Espinosa out of the lineup and off to Syracuse. The biggest issue with him is that you don't have to throw strikes to get him out and until and unless he makes pitchers throw strikes they won't.

- For the 1st half of last year (app) we played Lombo in left field and at leadoff; he didn't do great but he wasn't a disaster either.

- The biggest difference between last year and this is the lack of consistent starting pitching specifically from Stras and Gio who were dominant in April and May last year.

- It is imperative that we win one of the remaining games in Atlanta. 4.5 games out in early May is manageable; 6.5 games out probably means that we will be chasing them all year.

- LaRoche will come around. His at bats yesterday were better and he just missed one that was caught at the wall.

- I disagree with Peric about the lineup because his line of thinking implies that Span is the problem and he clearly isn't.

- Tyler Moore is not a good outfielder. Harper has the ball Hudson hit for a double in his back pocket.

sjm308 said...

Good Morning:

This is a rough start to what most of us thought was going to be a totally different experience as fans. For 60+ years I rooted for a team(when we had a team) that honestly had not much hope of success. Last year was so exciting and surprised me if no one else. My first playoff baseball!!

This year I bought into all the national hype as well as my fandom and actually thought we might lead the NL East from start to finish. That is not going to happen.

In reading comments, I got all upset about the cpa guy saying we had to go .600 but Wonk set that straight and Natsjack as always makes sense. Hell, even JayB had good points. It is not over, the season is part of what makes baseball so special. This is just very hard to watch right now and add "sunshine" Bobby's commentary and it leads me to the mute button and radio almost immediately.

I have no solutions. Have to hope Zimmerman comes back and is the outstanding 3rd baseman we have grown accustomed to. Have to hope SS figures out his delivery and is not hurt. Have to hope that the bullpen settles in. Have to hope that either Espinosa or Lombo steps up and wins that spot. Have to hope that Ramos comes back and proves he deserves to start. Lots and lots of hopes here but like others, I am not going to stop rooting. Hell, I watched Carlos Paula play outfield and if I can get through that, I can certainly root for our lads here.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

sjm, keep the faith. It's not even close to being over.

These guys have to dig deep and Davey has to make some changes. The old way doesn't always work but Davey's way got them into the playoffs.

I felt Davey could go with his "friends" approach with the players to run the table and then a take no prisoners approach in the playoffs.

I guess I was wrong about that.

Knoxville Nat said...

Well since everyone seems to be offering suggestions here is my two cents worth.

Moore needs to platoon with ALR at first base and stay the heck out of the OF where he looks out of place. If we need an extra OF let Bernadina play, he is above average defensively and like all hitters he needs some ABs to get his timing down, etc. For some reason Johnson seems to have almost ignored him this year.

Lombo needs to play at second base more this season and he needs to play now. Espinosa (along with others to be fair) is killing this team offensively, has played the worse defense of his career to date and right now he appears to be hurting more than he lets on to anyone.

We can't get RZ back soon enough! As Peric and others have said he is the straw that stirs our drink. But what is up with his early season injuries the past 3-4 years? Is he not training in the off season or what? One year or two I can understand but with Zim it is a disturbing pattern.

Defensively, right now this team stinks. I watched the first few innings on the Braves network last night and the announcers pointed out that the Nats led all of MLB with the most errors committed and that doesn't include the mental errors. That is awful! I remember when Riggleman took over for Acta he had the team take infield before many games. The vets hated it but over the next year and a half the team did play better defense. Perhaps DJ ought to think about doing the same thing.

Finally our pitchers need to stop walking so many batters especially the lead off batter. I don't know who said it first but walks will come back to haunt you, especially that leadoff walk. I think our pitching staff, with the possible exceptions of JZimm and Detwiler, have a collective case of cranium rectum syndrome.

As Jayson Werth might say, "Some things need to change around here."

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

There is a real fine line between team chemistry and fielding a 25 man rosters of statistically significant players.

It's almost a hybrid of the 2 that you need to be successful. This team won 98 games last year based on great starting 4 of pitchers and that 4.70 runs per game scored.

The 3.56 runs per game they are scoring now won't cut it.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Knoxville Nat said...
a collective case of cranium rectum syndrome.

As Jayson Werth might say, "Some things need to change around here."

May 01, 2013 10:43 AM

Those are 2 great statements.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

One thing I've said here for 2 seasons is that Espinosa is not the answer but I have to say I don't think Lombardozzi is the long-term solution. I still think Rendon somehow fits into the puzzle here.

RZim was not hitting well when he left nor was he fielding well. I think hoping for him to be the catalyst to winning again may be wishful thinking.

Moore needs to be playing against LH pitching and a day or 2 against RH pitching at 1st base. He showed last night the best swing of the night and that was against a RH pitcher.

Jayson Werth is more valuable as the #2 hitter and whoever has the hot hand out of TyMo, RZim and ALR needs to bat 4th regardless of this LRLR stuff.

This team needs to get back to scoring 5 runs a game on average if they are going to win.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Also, Lombo can't do any worse than Espinosa but again, I'm not confident overall that Lombo is the answer. I'm looking short-term.

Espi would do well by going back to AAA and learning to hit RH only. Could it be any worse?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

New post.

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