Monday, August 12, 2013

State of the Nats - 8/12

Photo by USA Today
Team Record: 57-60 (23-24)

N.L. East Standings

Wild Card Standings

Offensive Game of the Week: Jayson Werth 8/10 vs. Phillies - 3 for 5, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R

Pitching Line of the Week: Stephen Strasburg 8/11 vs. Phillies - 9 IP, 0 ER, 10 SO, 4 H, BB, 99 pitches, 66 strikes

Top Storylines

Momentum? - After taking a brutal sweep by the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park this week, the Nats turned things around by getting a sweep of their own over the Philadelphia Phillies. As Mark noted at the end of the Braves series, the Nats have only been able to beat bad teams since the All-Star break and are 1-11 against the likes of the Braves, Dodgers, Pirates and Tigers. The Phillies certainly fall in the 'bad teams' category and the upcoming Giants do as well. Even if the Nats continue to win this week against the struggling defending champs, it will be hard to read too much into it. In particular, if the recent offensive improvement is legitimate, it will have to carry over into this weekend's series in Atlanta. We'll see.

Giants coming to town - If this season turned out as many predicted, this would be a marquee series previewing a potential playoff matchup. But both the Nats and Giants have underachieved this year and San Francisco is even worse at 52-65. They have gone from winning two World Series titles in three years to a last place team in a very short period of time. They head to Washington having lost 14 of their last 19 games and with a pitching staff that is nowhere near what it used to be. The Nats will face Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75) on Tuesday, but then see Tim Lincecum (6-11, 4.18) and Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.71) in Games 2 and 3. With the way this Nats' season has gone, however, they can't sleep on any starting pitcher. And Lincecum actually just pitched eight scoreless against Milwaukee and Vogelsong allowed two earned runs in six innings against the Orioles.

Taylor Jordan's innings limit - The Nationals rookie could be making his last start this week before he hits his team imposed innings limit for the season. Jordan had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and is nearing the finish line for 2013. The Nats won't commit to a specific day as they want Jordan to continue pitching without that factor on the top of his mind. But with Ross Ohlendorf on his way back, it would make sense if Jordan's limit is coming soon. Ohlendorf pitched at Syracuse on Saturday and gave up a solo home run and five hits through three innings. He is supposed to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday which will determine what happens next. Either way, the days of Jordan in the Nats' 2013 rotation are dwindling. We could soon see him make his final case this year to be in the rotation at the beginning of next season.

Quote of the Week

A reflective Jayson Werth after the Nats' were swept by Atlanta:

"I read something the other day, where I found some notes from before I signed here. I had written some stuff down about the different teams I was going to eventually play for. I was just kind of reading over the notes, and for the Nats one of the things said: 'We would be good toward the end of my contract.' It kind of put things in perspective with the success last year, and really where we're at now with the guys.

"We're still in the building-type phase. I know with all the expectations, it didn't really seem like that. But we've got a lot of young players. The direction's still good. We've got a lot of young talent, and there's a lot of things to look forward to here in Washington."

Tweet of the Week

Gio's dog has style:

Road Ahead

Mon. – OFF
Tue. – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Gonzalez)
Wed. – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Zimmermann)
Thu. – 4:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Haren)
Fri. – 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Braves (Jordan)
Sat. – 7:10 p.m. at Atlanta Braves (Strasburg)
Sun. – 1:35 p.m. at Atlanta Braves (Gonzalez)


Unknown said...

That we're still in the building cycle stuff from Werth is just nonsense. First, any team might be good to the end of his contract, second, the let's temper expectations because we're a sub-500 club that was expected to threaten for the trophy is some excuse-making of grand proportion, even if it is coming from one of the handful of guys producing very well for the club.

Though, if this is his way of saying, we're just not that good yet, then I think he's right and Rizzo should act accordingly to make some adjustments while this win now window is still here.

Tcostant said...

Random thought:

- Happy Birthday to Mark Z

- I like the 5PM start yesterday, a lot. Went to the game with my 6 and 2 year old (and my wife!), and the kids napped a little leading to more enjoyment for my wife and I. It also let us enjoy the morning early afternoon. I vote for all Sunday not travel days being changed to 5PM.

- The Nationals just need to keep winning series and we will be playing "meaningful games in September".

- I wonder how this year will event season ticket renewals?

NatSpoinNJ said...

I think the adjustments should include a starting outfielder, a starting pitcher, 1-2 bullpen arms and a new bench.

Theophilus T. S. said...

That is one ugly dog. If Gonzalez could somehow put on that face on the mound he might actually scare somebody.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Five o'clock has its pluses and minuses. Early afternoon starts in the dog days are grillers; ugly people start taking off their shirts. Late in the afternoon it's tolerably cooler. The problem w/ five o'clock is for people who prefer sitting down the right field line (don't ask me why, but that's always been my preference) and between 6:30 and 7:30 the sun starts setting beyond LF and and you're afraid of developing cataracts if you look into it too long.

Section 222 said...

Just wanted to note in connection with the Denard Span Gold Glove conversation a few threads back that the reigning NL CF GGer is Andrew McCutcheon. Sorry to inform Carp of this, but Span isn't going to dethrone that guy anytime soon.

In 2011, the winner was Matt Kemp.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Werth paid a terrible price for having a down year after signing a mega-contract. Injuries notwithstanding, he's been worth the money the past two years (and I say this even if he drops fifty points off his average in the last month and a half). Last season many assumed that his higher average and OBP were the consequence of adjusting his approach to hitting leadoff. Now we see that he can accomplish the same things almost anywhere in the order. Fishing balls out of the RF corner, he's a master.

It's hard to imagine Werth in a job where he has to sit in a chair but if he has any post-career front-office aspirations the Nats need to find a position for him.

Holden Baroque said...

Happy birthday Mark?
Happy birthday Mark!

Theophilus T. S. said...

Someone said Span "hasn't been the player we thought he was." What that means is, he hasn't been the player we expected. Expectations were high. Too high for a guy changing leagues? I haven't decided, yet, what kind of a player he is. I'm guessing his previous nos. weren't the product of playing in Target Field, or of being managed by Rob Gardenhire -- although the Nats should hire Gardenhire if that's the case. I won't cry if the Nats trade him for a good hitter and put Harper back in CF for a couple of years. But I'm reserving my final judgment about Span at least until September 30 and maybe longer.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Theo. The Nats clearly wanted a defense-first CF who didn't hurt them too much offensively, with the assumption being that the rest of their offense and deep bench could make up for it. Span has delivered for the most part; I'm sure they thought they'd be getting a slightly higher OBP and better baserunning, but I'd say they've gotten 90% of the value they expected.

Unknown said...

Theo -- not sure I can be onboard with such a glowing review of Werth. To me the guy has not been worth the money. 2011 complete bust not a down year (for which I don't think he paid a terrible price at all -- the fans and media were light on the guy, if anything), 2012 he missed half the season and hit 5 HRs (his .300 average and great OBP was very nice, but at no point did he carry the club -- knocked in 31 scored 42 runs), 2013 has been great but his ragingly hot streak is all when the games are close to meaningless. Not his fault that he's playing well when the club is largely out of it, but on the other hand they might not be so out of it had he played like this in May. He's knocking on 35 yrs old and they still owe him $83,000,000 from 2014 on. If there is some great value to having him in a chair, we may see it as he might be a bench player when he's earning his last $21M at age 38 for the Nats in 2017. He's been fragile as a young man, not like we can bet on him avoiding injury either, so he maybe sitting in a chair with wheels part of the time.

Section 222 said...

No way we've got 90% of the value expected from Span. He was going to be the "quintessential leadoff guy," high OPB, able to steal bases, constantly putting pressure on the opposing team. A Michael Bourn type, only a lot cheaper. (Yeah, I know, Bourn hasn't been that good either, but still.) And let's not forget, for all the talk of him being better recently, Span's OBP has been below .330 since June 1 and now stands at .313.

His defense has been great. His offense has not. It hasn't even been good. Not for the kind of player he was supposed to be. Not for a guy with a .357 OPB before this year.

Tcostant said...

I came across this article, on what ever team would look like if there were no player movement. It amazingly interesting, but of course just fantasy. It make for a great off-day read:

Section 222 said...

That is a really cool article Tcostant. Those poor Marlins fans. And how could the Nats have so little in the outfield? Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Span's OBP was .342 last year, and he was not only coming to a new league but also being forced to hit with the bases empty far more often because of the pitchers hitting in front of him. And he was going from an AL Central with very weak pitching in recent years to an NL East with a ton of quality starters- check the "runs allowed" for the eight teams in question for 2012. If you expected more than a .330 or so OBP, your expectations were unreasonable.

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

"I wonder how this year will event season ticket renewals?"

I bet a lot of people took advantage of the offer to lock in two or even three years at the 2012 price. I know I did.

Section 222 said...

Yes, I expected more than a .330 OPB. So did Rizzo. So did everyone else who thought that the trade was a good one for Nats. Right now, of course, we'd thrilled with .330 since he's at .313. I'm no WODL on this, but frankly, I think it's a lot more unreasonable to be arguing at this point that Span has had a good year, or even a pretty good year.

Look, I supported the trade. I know why Rizzo did it, and it was the right move. I don't think keeping Morse in his contract year was an option. But let's face facts. Span's down year is one of the major components of the failure of the Nats offense this year. Not the only reason, but a major component. And the failure of our offense is why we're 14.5 games back in the NL East with 45 to play.

I don't buy this "coming to a new league" stuff either. Shin-Soo Choo made the adjustment pretty well, didn't he? He's even a leadoff hitter. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples of AL hitters coming to the NL and doing just fine. The pitchers have to adjust to a new hitter just as much as a hitter has to adjust to new pitchers.

ehay2k said...

Is it me, or were the players much more relaxed at the plate this series? It just seemed like somehow, maybe getting swept by the Braves released some pressure and they now are just playing ball. Heck, Desi even poked a ball, rather than try to hit it so hard it went back in time.

It's only one series, but there seems to be a relaxed group out there, one averaging over 7 runs a game for the first series I can remember.

Section 222 said...

bet a lot of people took advantage of the offer to lock in two or even three years at the 2012 price. I know I did.

I did too. I was sure the Nats would be raising prices for 2014. Now, I'd be surprised if they did.

ehay2k said...

Oh, and while we're at it - Barkeep, a round of groin tweaks for all my friends! (Seems to have helped Werth and SS).

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say he's had a good year. A good year would be 100%+ of what was expected of him, but I said 90%. The baserunning was off by a lot. The hitting by maybe 15-20 points on OBP I think, so off by a little. The defense met expectations. His health exceeded expectations.

I don't know how you know what Rizzo expected of him. You should know better than to go off a front office guy's public comments. Front office guys always paint the rosiest picture imaginable of every single one of the team's players. They'd be crazy not to - it sells tickets and helps any future trades, and it's important to show that you believe in your players for their sake as well.

So overall I say he's been a slight disappointment. But even if you expected him to replicate his 2012 numbers in a much tougher division (it's not just the league change- check the rotations in the 2012 AL Central vs. the 2013 NL East), he's not a big reason for the failure of the Nats' offense. An extra 30 points of OBP for Span would translate into an extra 13-15 or so baserunners, probably less than ten runs scored over the season. The bench guys collectively have 3 times as many plate appearances as Span and they're MUCH further off their projections. I'd also put Espinosa and Suzuki way ahead of Span when listing causes of the offensive woes.

Anonymous said...

And LaRoche. Forgot about him. So that's every 2013 bench guy plus Espinosa, Suzuki and LaRoche before you can even think about Span.

Holden Baroque said...

Or it could be that Span just wound up with the wrong time to have an off year. It happens.

Steady Eddie said...

222 -- well, they jacked up single game and new ST prices pretty dramatically for this year, so anything short of a WS this year would have made further increases for 2014 pretty self-defeating.

ehay2k -- great point about more relaxed plate approaches. I was nostalgically looking at some 2012 highlights yesterday morning (in mourning for the disappointments of this season) and saw exactly what you noted about this weekend. Successes that hinged on almost everyone's swings going with what was pitched rather than (too often this year) what they wished had been pitched. Of course, maybe the #1 poster child for that was TMo's NLDS game-winning single on an outside pitch poked to the opposite field. (NOT suggesting oppo approaches!, just "make the most out of what you're thrown for the needs of the moment".)

Section 222 said...

I guess we'll agree to disagree bbb. Espi only played 44 games. Zuki has played 72. And yes, there are many reasons for the Nats' regression. I'd put ALR at the top. Not sure if I'd put Span next or the bench (as a whole, not individually). Both have been bad. Span was in a key spot in the lineup for almost the whole year. He's tied with iron man Desi for the most PAs on the team. There is just no way that Lombo or the Shark deserve as much of the blame as him.

As for Rizzo's expectations, you're right I don't know what he really expected. But surely you don't think he would have made this trade if he expected Span to have a season like this.

Holden Baroque said...

OK, just for fun, anent Span and what Rizzo might have been expecting:

"Although he smacked a career-high 38 doubles in 2012, Span derives much of his value by slapping singles around the field. The speedster’s impact on the bases has slowed across the past two seasons, however, with the former first-round Draft pick combining for 23 swipes between 2011 and 2012 after averaging about as many from 2009-10. Injuries were partially to blame for the new Washington outfielder’s more stationary approach, though, so restored health could result in a 2013 that ends with impressive steals and runs totals.

"Fantasy Bottom Line: New Nationals outfielder should see spike in runs, steals."

Anonymous said...

Section 222-

Just indulge me and do the basic math. Give Span an extra 40 points of OBP if you want, even though I think that's too much to ask. Heck, give him a couple extra base hits too while you're at it. How many more runs do the Nats score? Maybe 10 or 15? That barely moves the needle.

Now if you start to give the bench guysd collectively an extra 100 points of OBP and 100 points of slugging in their 1000-1500 PAs, which would still have been reasonable preseason projections, you start to see a real difference.

Section 222 said...

bb, I've been arguing mostly with these earlier statements of yours:

1. Span has delivered for the most part;

2. I'd say they've gotten 90% of the value they expected.

3. If you expected more than a .330 or so OBP, your expectations were unreasonable.

4. So overall I say he's been a slight disappointment.

All of these I think are wrong. The blame for the Nats's disappointing season falls on many players, including Span. Just because you have a mathematical theory for why his bad play hasn't had that much of an overall impact on the team doesn't make his play any less bad.

Holden, thanks for finding the preseason preview of Span. (Your link didn't work for me, but here it is.) Obviously, we weren't alone in expecting that Span would have an OPB of over .330.

Anonymous said...

I think expecting a guy who is going from a weak pitching division to a strong pitching division and is on the wrong side of peak age to drop less than ten or so points in OBP is unreasonable. I understand you expected otherwise, and your expectations were fueled by what others were saying about him. But my reasons for expecting around a .330 OBP for him are grounded in solid arguments, I think. That's about all I can do.

Section 222 said...

bb, wrong side of peak age? Come on, that's reaching for excuses. He's right in the prime of his career and was expected to finally get back to his peak form after having a couple of injury plagued years. I haven't had the time to evaluate your strong pitching division/weak pitching division argument but the Phillies and Marlins have hardly been tough opponents this year, which the pitching of the Tigers and the Royals has been pretty darn good. Over a 162 (or 117 so far) game season, I don't think that has that much of an impact.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

McCutcheon should not win the Golden Glove. I dont go by the numbers I go by the eye test. I watch 15-20 games a week.

I would love Span to win, but my eye says Carlos Gomez of the Brewers is even better.

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