Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Identity theft

Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — They need to get healthy. They need to start getting on base at a rate that doesn't rank among the dregs of the league. They need to make plays at crucial moments in ballgames. They need to find an identity. Maybe they need to do as Jayson Werth suggests and "eat somebody's face."

Whatever the case, the Nationals recognize they've nearly reached the midpoint of a frustrating year and they've yet to come close to living up to their lofty preseason expectations. Perhaps that's been the problem all along. As Werth and Ian Desmond put it following Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Phillies, this team might still be living in the past.

"It's so hard when you have such success last year," Desmond said. "It's so hard to let go of the things that you did last year. This is a new team. We have probably a better team, a better squad roster-wise. But we're ... trying to force the things on ourselves that we did last year, instead of going out and playing the game that we know how to play this year. We're not giving ourselves a chance to become the 2013 Nats. We're playing as 2012."

Put another way, these Nationals have yet to establish their own identity, even though they've already played 70 games, winning only 34 of them.

"Maybe we've kind of lacked an identity as a team," Werth said. "But you know, I think as you start winning games and you start playing and you go on a roll or you rally or whatever it is you do, you kind of create an identity. We just haven't hit stride as far as that goes. How many times have we rallied this year? How many winning streaks have we gone on? We just haven't hit stride yet. Hopefully soon."
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D'Gourds said...

They have an identity--they are choking losers.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Choking losers?"

They are 2 games under .500 and they have not come close to playing their best baseball. They are a better team this year than last year. But last year they did not lose 2 of their starters for protracted periods of time. The offense was awful in the early part of last season, but they won because that staff, and their defense, carried them until the offense finally came around.

They've got those injured 2 starters back and will likely have Harper back soon.

Sometimes a GM will shake up a team by replacing the field manager. It does work, for whatever reason, more often than not, especially when the talent is there.

But the Nats are not run by George Steinbrenner. I never liked George, but he didn't quit working his team until it started winning. I don't think Rizzo would even consider it. He seems to always leave himself with options when it comes to the players, but not the field manager.

A lot of this team's woes are on Davey. Last year, he got the best out of his players and his team. This year, they are woefully under-performing. It's Davey's job to manage his players to win. What worked last year is not working this year. If it ain't workin', ya fix it.

Easy for me to say. Not so easy to do when you've had so much success for so long, doing it your way. That's why a change might help.

Anonymous said...

Blogger Todd Boss pointed out something interesting yesterday--that the Nats have scored 3 or fewer runs in 40 games already (it is now 41). Their record in those games is now 9-32, for a .220 winning percentage. That record is actually not much worse than last year, when their winning percentage in such games was .284.

Problem is, they only had 67 such games all last year and are currently on pace for 95 this year. If the pace and winning percentage stay the same, that makes for 75 losses in such games on the season. They have already also lost 8 other games in which they have scored 4 or more, which brings the total to 83 losses not counting any additional high scoring losses still to come.

"We have probably a better team, a better squad roster-wise," say Ian. No Ian, no you don't.

Faraz Shaikh said...

It is obvious where we are lacking these days. I was hoping Rockies trip will change that but unfortunately it has not.

Rabbit34 said...

Ok Jason. You gave the team identity. Now, live up to it... "Eat Face".

jeeves said...

I agree, Laddie. A lot of questionable decisions by Davey. What is extra frustrating about lately is the teams the Nats are losing to. This was supposed to be an easier part of the schedule.
Davey said yesterday that youth was a big reason for the Nat's problems. The day before I said that the youth, namely four members of the starting rotation, Harp, Rendon, Desi, an Krol are or were doing well when not injured. It is too many of the veterans who have been letting the team down.

Rabbit34 said...

They are going to rush Harper back. He will play for about a week, then be out for the rest of the season. I can see it coming.

natsfan1a said...

Didn't see the game as it started too late for me. Just in case they *do* decide to go bowling to loosen up, here are a couple of shirt ideas (maybe someone with mad skillz could PhotoShop Werth into the Dude one):

shirt one

shirt two

You're welcome. :-)

mick said...

The problem just don't get the feel that they can turn this around, aka.. get on a few winning streaks, win mire series than they lose. Yes, the Tigers last season were under 500 at All star break...but most baseball insiders felt they would get rolling in July after their pitching settled in, there was never, i repeat, never an issue with their bats and their team average was not last or next to last like the Nats

mick said...

how did the Mets and Phillies become a better team than us, let alone the Braves? just amazing how quickly things change and in Nats case, for the worse... before the trolls attack me...ESPN MLB analyst (do not remember his name) yesterday with Lavar and Dukes stated that Mets pitching could be on par with go after him as well

Anonymous said...

The quotes from this team are priceless. Excuse after excuse.I really don't think these players and coaches listen to what they say. If they did they know it is all BS. It started in ST when the veterans were saying they only needed 25 -- 50 at bats to be ready. Johnson would often say they are veterans and they know how to get ready. Then the season started and nothing happened. We were labeled as "haters" and "non fans" when we questioned their preparedness. We were told it was still early and not to worry. Then we had the injuries and that was the reason for their performance. Now it is a lack of identity. I don't think their performance is due to any of those reasons. I think these guys are (i) not prepared and (ii) just not that good. Last year was a better team. Defense notwithstanding, Morse is a better player than Span. If I see Span pull another weak grounder to the first basemen or hit a soft fly ball to left field I think I will "eat my face". Speaking of "eat my face" , Werth should focus on his on field play instead of his clubhouse presence. He has grossly underperformed for his $20mm pa salary. His "blind squirrel" home runs every 10- 20 games just does not cut it.

mick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mick said...

m...good post and accurate. Do you honestly think Mike Rizzo would ever publicly say "I F'd up" no, he will double down, like most arrogant people do and destroy whatever promise this team has in 2014, I am afraid of what moves he will make as they will probably deplete this team back to the bottom of the division for a long time.

But there is hope...the Lerners, as I think Mark is fed up with him

Joe Seamhead said...

Jayson Werth: "You've got to show up tomorrow ready to eat somebody's face."

Werewolves of London

Joe Seamhead said...

When did the rules of etiquette regarding foul language change on this board.?Look, I'm a construction worker. I cuss with the men I work around all the time. I don't get offended by it then, and there. But Mark has requested that this board stay family friendly in that regard, so here I find the potty mouth trash talking offensive and immature. And I have no respect for the bloggers that constantly disregard our host's request. You lose all credibility with me as a person, as does your opinion as a fan.

baseballswami said...

Seriously- if anyone can help it's Jayson. I feel that a big part of the problem is Davey's style. You have heard him talk about letting people express their talents, they need to relax, they know what they need- it's very hands off. That worked last year because guys were playing well. I feel that his style is not working now because , for one thing we should not be playing home run baseball with this team, and for another thing they seem to need more guidance and intervention this year. It's like no one is at the wheel. Game after game there are serious questions begging to be asked about in game management- taking pitchers out, bullpen, walking people, etc. I feel that Davey sees this all as something that is just happening outside of him and apart from him. I wish he would look in the mirror, question his own play for a change , challenge himself as an old dog to try a new trick or two and get dirty . He is quite passively sitting in the dugout. Maybe he is the one that needs to be more aggressive.

alexva said...

swami, I get where you're coming from but there are risks associated with this. the players can sense panic and it could backfire. in the end it comes down to them performing up to their abilities, consistently.

Muddy said...

If the Nats performance in 2013 continues as it has been, I wonder what it will mean for Randy Knorr and/or Trent Jewett -- and maybe Rick Eckstein. Will the bench coach/3rd base coach on a team that failed to come close to expectations get the manager's job? And will the hitting coach for a team that isn't hitting be retained? Davey says that Rick E. is a great hitting coach ever but the results aren't there this year, although last year the offense wasn't bad statistically; for example, the Nats were something like 10th in runs scored and their tream BA was .261. Rizzo and company have a knack for going off the reservation -- for example, dumping Lannan for $12-13 million dollar mediocrities, trading The Hammer for Cory Brown (BA currently at .239 in Syracuse) and the now departed HRod, and lusting for leadoff man Span, who currently sports a sub .300 OBP, which, with the signing of LAR, meant Rizzo had to dump the highly productive and much loved Mike Morse.

UNTERP said...
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UNTERP said...
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Candide said...

Bryce Harper ‏@Bharper3407
Eat face! #zombieMode

The problem with zombies is, they're generally slow, uncoordinated, and stupid. Pretty sure that's not what this team needs.

baseballswami said...

Ok- as much as all this wallowing can be self- indulgently satisfying at times, I must go and do some actual work. For the rest of the day if I get angry it will be at some criminal deed, injustice or unkindness. It will not be at a bunch of young men the same age as my kids who are playing a game for a living. I wish them well, I hope they all have good support systems in their lives and I hope they figure things out.

D'Gourds said...

lady blah blah--I am impressed with your eternal optimism, but I'm so sick of the injuries excuse. We were just as injured last year and persevered. No good team should be so reliant on one player like we are with Harper. Nobody is stepping up. I honestly think we haven't gotten over game 5. This team has a choker's mentality.

A DC Wonk said...

Do you honestly think Mike Rizzo would ever publicly say "I F'd up" no, he will double down, like most arrogant people do and destroy whatever promise this team has in 2014...

Oh, puleeze.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to right a franchise that stinks so bad it has back-to-back 100+ loss seasons, a Dominican League scandal, and a worse-than-depleted farm system (due to MLB intentional neglect when they owned the team) at the same time that 29 other teams are working hard to improve their own teams?

Rizzo has done an amazing job here -- even more so by building a foundation that will last into the future. The four good starters of our five-man rotation are all age 27 or less -- that's an outstanding position to be in.

Rizzo makes some educated gambles -- sometimes they pay off (Rendon) sometimes they don't (Haren). Sometimes he gets guys that are under the radar and go unnoticed for a year (Ian Krol). The trade that got Gio took a lot of cojones. Signing Soriano wasn't on anybody's radar. Trading David Freitas for Suzuki was a steal. Letting Adam Dunn walk away netted us huge draft picks.

Is he perfect? No. That's why they call it a gamble. It's not a sure thing.

But I'm not sure there is any franchise that has improved overall as much as the Nats have the last couple of years.

Theophilus T. S. said...

At the risk of offending Joe S.'s sense of propriety, this "identity crisis" theory is B.S. I hope Mark is just reporting, not commenting, and doesn't subscribe to it.

The Nats are not a better team than they were last year. They traded a .300 hitter for Willy Taveras. Bernadina and Lombardozzi had out-of-body seasons in 2012 and are, more or less, what they showed previously or what they were really expected to be. The bullpen stinks. Storen is closer to Henry than he is to his 2011-12 level and Johnson thinks he can't be trusted in close games. Krol appears to be nice but Abad is not the Second Coming of Burnett and by the end of the year will remind us more of Doug Slaten than anything else. Mattheus did a Gus Ferotte. Suzuki was fresh last August and September and is now worn down like Flores.

These are performance issues, not subjects for psychological counseling.

To top it off you have veterans who are willfully confused at best or at worst refuse to change their approach at the plate.

Eckstein: "I've given you all of the data on this pitcher; shown you film of what you used to do; you've batted against him 14 times in your career, and you're still hitting in the welterweight division. Why don't you try blah, blah, blah . . .?"

Player: "I don' wanna."

Eckstein: "You went 0/4 last night with two Ks looking. Skip wants you to do blah, blah, blah . . .."

Player: "I don' wanna."

For all Johnson might preach about being aggressive he might just as well be talking to his dog.

D'Gourds said...

and I agree with you re: Davey. Baseball is a game of adjustments. He is not managing to his team's make up. Waiting around for a 3 run hr doesn't work with this team this year. Make an adjistment Davey!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Muddy said...and lusting for leadoff man Span, who currently sports a sub .300 OBP

Span actually is at .307 unless you want to talk about his "stay on base" percentage and remove those pick-offs and other baserunning blunders.

Since he doesn't take many walks, that .252 BA is just bringing down his overall OBP. It's near crisis level to have a lead-off putting up those stats.

When your main table setter is staying on base only 27 out of 100 times, that's a problem. That's in that Nyjer range now.

As FP said last night, they aren't putting guys in the "Hall" solely for their defense.

After Espi leaves, Denard Span just falls apart in front of our eyes and prior to last night, Span had a nice lifetime BA of .350 vs Cliff Lee at 7 for 20.

Anonymous said...

karlkolchak said...

"Problem is, they only had 67 such games all last year and are currently on pace for 95 this year. If the pace and winning percentage stay the same, that makes for 75 losses in such games on the season. They have already also lost 8 other games in which they have scored 4 or more, which brings the total to 83 losses not counting any additional high scoring losses still to come.

"We have probably a better team, a better squad roster-wise," say Ian. No Ian, no you don't."

You saying you think this team loses 83 or more? I'll take that bet, karlkolchak. How much? Let me know and we can exchange contact information.

natsfan1a said...

I'm with you, swami @ 8:54, in conserving my negative energies for something more important on the grand scale of life.

Anonymous said...

I usually lurk and seldom post on this excellent site. But, I thought I'd throw my $0.02 in.

As a statistics guy, I wonder if we are seeing the Nats regress to the mean. If we throw out 2012, we have the same ballclub (maybe slightly better than 2010). Personally, I told my wife in 2012 that I'd be happy for a .500 season and then bam!!!! Now everyone's expectations are up when Rizzo's plan for Washington's emergence was 2014 or '15(If I remember correctly).

I think 2012 is an outlier and we are seeing the team's natural progression from 2005 on. Do I like it, hell no. But the fundamentals of Nats baseball (or lack thereof): above average pitching staff, lack of bench depth, average to above average bull pen, poor situational hitting reat their ugly heads. We just lost them for a time in 2012.

However, it kills me when players say "we're a good ball team, we're just not showing it" and things like that. That's like saying "I'm a hot, charismatic guy, there girls just don't recognize it."

So, to me I think the Nats need to forget 2012, 'we're a good ball team,' World Series or bust, and get back to building the foundation for future success. We're still too inconsistent.

Caps Fan said...

Of course they have an identity crisis. Of course they still think it's 2012. They're still hearing Take On Me at the ballpark late in the game. Should have kept the player and traded the song.

Caps Fan said...
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Ghost Of Steve M. said...

A DC Wonk said... Signing Soriano wasn't on anybody's radar.

Is that right? It was on my radar as the off-season started as I wrote here that Rizzo will go after one of Boras's closers. I saw closer as a off-season need along with getting a 2nd baseman. After the Yankees didn't get Soriano extended, let's be for real any team willing to make him the "richest" closer would get a good chance to sign him and Lerner paid up the cash.

The same goes for Kurt Suzuki. It was a salary dump. Any team that wanted Kurt could have him. The A's didn't want him any more and were willing to let him go for a bag of balls. Freitas was probably a slight over-pay. When the A's traded Suzuki his OBP was .250. Kurt actually has an identical .218 BA that he had when the A's traded him.

On Ian Krol, after his homophobic slur he wore out his welcome in Oakland and that plus his 5.06 ERA made him a throw-in for a trade for Michael Morse that you never know how it ends. The Mariners may trade Morse at the trade deadline when he's even more valuable.

John C. said...

Alexva, I doubt that mick sees himself in that mirror. Apologies to the innocent bystanders , I forgot the basic internet rule: do not feed the trolls.

Geaux Nats!

Nats 128 said...

"Identity Theft" who is that pretending to be Denard Span.

Kurt Suzuki better get his head back into the game. I saw the pitch that MrsB was talking about and a few more on Pitch fx and those were def inside the box and called balls. Suzuki didnt even bother framing them. What was his hurry last night. When you cant hit and cant help stop the running game you better be great at helping your pitcher!

Section 222 said...

Jeff, welcome. You make some good points. But I think your memory may be a bit hazy on "the Plan II". This year, 2013, was the year Rizzo was building for-- with Stras fully healed and off an innings limit, the starting rotation fully developed, and Harper in his age 21 season. 2012 was gravy, which is why Rizzo was cautious with Stras and didn't look for more help at the trading deadline. There's no doubt that many of our players played over their heads last year, more than we realized at the time. ALR, Desi, Lombo, Moore, Shark, Tracy (i.e., the whole bench), and even Werth after he came back. And we got very, very lucky with the health of our rotation. Rizzo didn't plan for that to regress to the mean, and it came back to bite him in the form of 4 mediocre spot starts from Duke and Karns.

I still think Rizzo made the right move getting Span and letting Morse go. But Span is now a disappointment, and we could sure use another big bat in the lineup. Morse's absence wouldn't be felt so strongly if Zim, ALR, and Desi were producing, but right now they aren't.

The only identity the Nats have right now is a team that is confounding all the expectations of its fans and of the experts -- in the wrong direction.

Nats 128 said...

"If I see Span pull another weak grounder to the first basemen or hit a soft fly ball to left field I think I will "eat my face"."

I feel the same way. I never saw him play before the trade and only saw his stats. Span has given new meaning to his style of game as it isnt small ball, its weak ball.

He should be putting stress on the infielders and pitcher thinking bunt or when he gets on base being a stealing threat and just haven't seen it. 7 steals?

Have you seen Ben Revere play. Thats what I thought the Nats were getting with Span however with more pop and better defense.

Section 222 said...

The Shark must be seething to watch two infielders not make key plays in the outfield the last two nights, as well as go a combined 2-10 for the two games.

Rabbit34 said...

Mick....I was watching the Braves/Mets for a while and did show the top five teams era wise, and the Mets were third. The Nats fifth. But I think it was for the month of June, now that I think about it. In any case, the Nats staff is much better that the Mets. Those announcers are wrong.

Doc said...

Who better to eat someone's face than Wolfman Jay!

Bob Saget Nats Fan 101 said...

Hello everyone. I have been thinking of what the Nationals issues are this season so far. I feel like they put too much pressure on themselves. From my observations as a fan who only played baseball until I was in the 5th grade, I believe Davey has be too stubborn to adjust to the way his team and players are performing. We all know he played Espi for too long or has kept our starters in games for too long and this has cost us wins. It seems his "hit home run" managing style isnt working as best it could. Maybe he needs to adjust his managing style to his players best talents and abilities.

I am watching one game at a time. I am hoping we go on a winning streak. That could happen or it could not happen.


baseballswami said...

Break time- catching up with the morning ideas. I feel that the organization did have a plan. It included a lot of player development. Last year's surprising success actually stalled some of that. I see Lombo, Moore, Kobernus, Espi, Harper, Rendon-- all as assets in our system. In mis- handling some of those players, they have lessened their value and delayed their development. I think that is why you see regression in some of them. Harper was going to be up quickly so no big deal, maybe Rendon also. But taking promising young players , sitting them on the bench and playing them out of position does nothing for our organization long term. If this organization wants to be one of the big dogs this is not a good thing on two fronts. You have untrained players not making plays in critical spots when every run is hard to come by- and those players have stopped developing and so are of less value in trade. A losing situation for everyone. Add to that the serious mismanagement of injuries and DL. Oy.

Nats 128 said...

"We all know he played Espi for too long"

Is that right. When did you figure that out, May 15th?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Nats 128 said...
"We all know he played Espi for too long"

Is that right. When did you figure that out, May 15th?

June 19, 2013 10:57 AM

That's part of the problem with Rizzo, what took him so long with Espi and Henry.

Kind of makes you look inept when you view it in hindsight.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Bob Saget Nats Fan 101 said...
Maybe he needs to adjust his managing style to his players best talents and abilities.

In order to hit those Weaveresque 3 run homers you have to have 2 men on base.

Yes, clearly Davey has to evolve to what he has had at the times. If 3 runs are winning games for the Nats then employ your best defense and work for 3 innings of 1 run opportunities. I will let Davey figure out how to do that.

The Lombo, TyMo, Kobernus outfields have cost these pitchers too many runs and Werth hasn't been too good himself.

Eric said...

I'm curious about the whole "regression to the mean" concept.

If what we've seen so far this season is the "real" Nats, then what were the odds that enough players would perform "above their ability" across 162 games in order to win 98 of them?

I'm no statistician, but it seems the odds would be exceptionally low. My guess is that the "real" Nats are somewhere between last season and this one, and probably leaning more towards last season's output.

JaneB said...

I feel the same way you posit Bernie might feel, 222. His bat was heating up and he's terrific in the outfield. Now he's sitting.

But I still love them. I can't do anything to fix it. ALl I can do is love them still.

Eric said...

Agreed re: Bernie. I don't understand why he isn't the starter in left field until Harper returns.

Drew said...

Denard Span's OPS is .651.

Ben Revere's is .610.

Just sayin'...

JD said...

Thanks for some Sanity Drew.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Agreed Drew. Neither are doing great this season but unfortunately in this series Ben Revere has been a thorn in the Nats side.

That's what Span has to do to teams.

JD said...

I like the way the collective venom has switched from Espi to Span with Suzuki on deck.

Eric said...

From the twitter feed:
"Mike Rizzo said on his weekly radio show that Bryce Harper will begin baseball activities in a day or two."

Fingers crossed!

baseballswami said...

No- it's on Eck. And there is a new post!

Nats 128 said...

Since a large component of OPS is SLG % and OPS doesnt include steals, Revere turns alot of those singles into doubles with the stealing 2nd base.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

A beautiful day for 4 games.

1:00 Dodgers @ Yanks
4:00 Padres at Giants
7:00 Nats at Phils
10:00 Mariners at Angels.

Nest part about being old and having nowhere to go I can watch all 4.

Predictions from the games

1) I will see at least 12 homers

2) I will see 5 bad calls on the bases, but replay will prove that 4 were actually correct

3) Unless Bob Davidson's crew is umping I will see 0 balks

4) will see 3 hit by pitches at least

5) I will see no melees

6) Will se at least 3 guys stranded at third getting there with less than 2 outs.

7) will se - ejections

8) will see no blown saves

9) 2 home teams and 2 away teams will win

10) Yankees announcers will remind us they have lost most time to injuries (despite what Nat fans think)

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Just a reminder

No more losses in Hune.

Eat Face


Anonymous said...

bowdenball - My point was that is where they are headed if nothing improves, and so far NOTHING has improved. You can keep drinking the Kool-Aid if you want. As for me, I left Jonestown a month ago.

JamesFan said...

I don't think the issue here is talent. It's energy and lack of toughness. The team does not seem to have strong leadership in the dugout or on the field and the lethargy seems to be spreading to the pitching staff.

I'm not buying the notion that everyone should just relax. If they relaxed more, we would have to get pillows for them.

The Braves are not very good and the Phillies should not even be in the discussion.

Right now, the Nats are hard to watch because they are so flat. Compare their games with the O's. I'm not an O's fan, but they have the energy that we lack.

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