Category Archives: Jinx

Three Reasons The Nats Will Be Better In 2014

Please welcome back guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant. Here he is on your 2014 Washington Nationals.

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It says a lot about the Nats’ expectations that an 86-win 2013 season was considered a bitter disappointment. Going into this season, the song remains the same: They’re projected to go to the playoffs, Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate and the starting rotation is spoiled with Cy Young candidates.

The optimism is slightly different in 2014, though: bottom-of-the-roster holes have been filled, a new manager takes over the talented team and the glaring injury problems seem to be resolved (knock on wood).

Without further ado, here are three reasons the Nats are poised to win at least 90 games this season. Tomorrow, we’ll list why they won’t.

1. New Additions

One of the biggest problems last season was bench support. GM Mike Rizzo addressed that by adding outfielder Nate McLouth and catcher Jose Lobaton, both of whom provide depth at positions where the team had significant injury problems. McLouth will back up Harper and Jayson Werth, who missed a combined 77 games. Lobaton, a switch-hitter acquired from the Rays, will back up Wilson Ramos, who has only played in 80 or more games once in four seasons.

The most significant addition comes in the form of Doug Fister. Fister, acquired in an early winter deal with the Tigers, takes over the No. 4 spot, left vacant by the departure of the wildly inconsistent Dan Haren.

Fister brings playoff experience and reliability, as well as consistency. Last season, he finished with a 3.67 ERA and, in 32 starts, lasted at least six innings 27 times. Conversely, Haren finished last season with a 4.67 ERA and pitched six or more innings just 18 times.

Fister would be a No. 2 on most teams and has the potential to make the Nationals’ rotation the best in the MLB. He does start the season on the DL, though.

2. Pitching Changes

Rizzo and new manager Matt Williams have made a few other changes to the pitching staff, moving Ross Detwiler to the bullpen and adding lefty reliever Jerry Blevins. The Detwiler move leaves the No. 5 spot available, and righties Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are the frontrunners. The Blevins move gives the bullpen its only left-hander other than Detwiler.

Roark, 27, made his major league debut last year and put up a 7-1 record with a 1.51 ERA. Jordan, 25, also made his debut last season, going 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA. Both have looked solid this spring and could provide an upgrade to the back of the rotation, which was unreliable last season.

Blevins has been solid for Oakland the past two seasons, and he’s been sharp this spring. He should help upgrade a bullpen that was inconsistent last season after a strong 2012.

3. Improving Young Core

Strasburg, 25, and Harper, 21, are the present and the future of the Nats. Despite notable improvement last year, they still suffered hiccups.

Strasburg’s win-loss record was unimpressive, though that can be attributed to a lack of run support. Harper was on an absolute tear until he literally hit a wall, then his season fell back to normal human level.

Spring has brought Nats fans a Strasburg slider and bulkier Harper, showing the work they put in during their longer-than-expected offseasons. All indications are they’ll be better than ever in 2014.

Bryce Harper Is Your Sports Illustrated Cover Boy Once More

Four years after being introduced to the world as a teenage phenom, Bryce Harper makes a return visit to the cover of Sports Illustrated this week (via @richarddeitsch). It signals a new year in which the 2013 Nats not only look like baseball’s best but are the talk of the sport too, and the team most likely to be jinxed. Thanks, SI!

Here’s a preview of Tom Verducci’s cover story, and here he is on the O’s.

DMV: The Nats Are Really, Really Good, At Least On Paper

Comparing the ’13 Nats to the 116-win ’01 Mariners: “I can see this club winning 105 games, something no team has done since ’04.” [Sweet Spot]

Mike Rizzo on Soriano: “Raffy is here to pitch the ninth inning.” [WaPo]

Nats avoid arbitration, sign Storen to one-year, $2.5m deal. [Nats Journal]

Another good one from NB, this time on the Morse deal. [Nats Baseball]

Morse deal means heavy leaning on Moore and Bernadina. [Nats Journal]

Sounds like Carpenter-Santangelo-Akra returning to MASN. [Nats Journal]

Troy Brouwer actually did the Gangnam Style dance … on ice. [RMNB]

Welcome to the older, wiser stage of Ovechkin’s lifestyle. [WaPo]

You can actually buy a little Brooks Laich doll now. How cute. [Bog]

Skins WR coach Ike Hilliard leaving to be Bills WR coach. [Real Redskins]

Terps wearing these “stealth-black pride” unis vs. UNC. [@alex_prewitt]

Ex-JMU football player now one of the world’s strongest men. [JMUSB]

SI Cover Jinx Attempts To Derail The O’s Unlikely Bandwagon

Endy Chavez, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis share the Orioles’ second SI cover in 16 years (the other is Matt Wieters two years ago), even if Markakis is on the shelf and missing this sweet September action. Bonus points for it being the Washington-Baltimore “Unlikely Sports Capital” issue as well, with features on Davey Johson and RGIII.

Steinz has the details. Might have to get this one for the collection.

On Being Both A Nats And O’s Fan During These Sky-High Times

I don’t know that I was born an O’s fan, but I was raised one. From about 1985 it was all about the Birds, and then 20 years later the Nats happened.

I was still an O’s fan after baseball returned to D.C., it’s just that they took a backseat. Even though both teams more or less stunk these past seven years, we’ve followed them along the way, and this blog’s coverage of each reflects the pecking order: Nats 1 (595 posts), O’s 1-A (266 posts).

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DMV: Nats Fans Talking Playoffs

Nats have MLB’s largest division lead (4.5 games up on the Mets), and their playoff chances grow stronger by the series. [Nats Baseball]

Math: Nats have a 72% chance of making it. [Sports Club Stats]

And with that, the first-place Yankees come to town. [Nats Journal]

Nats pitchers and pinch-hitters have hit well. [Federal Baseball]

Steinz has your “Clown Question, Bro” roundup du jour. [Bog]

O’s win fifth straight, sweep Pirates, pound Bedard. [Camden Chat]

Assessing the Skins’ muddled safety situation. [The Insider]

Observations from Bradley Beal’s Wiz workout. [Bullets Forever]

MKG thinks the Wiz could be a playoff team. [Wiz Insider]

McPhee discusses Caps’ coach search, doesn’t say much. [RMNB]

Nats Are NL’s First 10-Win Team, Which Is Historically Awesome

The Nats won their 10th game in typically low-scoring fashion last night, making them the National League’s first team to hit that watermark. That’s impressive on its own, but take a look at how long it’s taken them to reach 10 wins in their previous seven seasons:

2012: April 18 — 13th game (10-3)
2011: April 24 — 20th game (10-10)
2010: April 26 — 20th game (10-10)
2009: May 8 — 28th game (10-18)
2008: April 29 — 27th game (10-17)
2007: May 11 — 35th game (10-25)
2006: May 5 — 30th game (10-20)
2005: April 24 — 19th game (10-9)

Man, ’06-09 sucked, but this year’s Nats reached 10 wins 46 percent faster than the previous best (’05) and twice as fast as the historical average (26 games). That’s something.

Really, it is, because even if, as Chris Needham pointed out, the Nats play .500 ball the rest of the way they’ll still win a franchise-best 85 games and be in the hunt down to the wire.

That’s the thing about all these early wins; you can’t take them away.

Your/Our 2012 Nats Predictions

After being baseball’s biggest laughingstock not so long ago, it feels pretty good to be a Nats fan right now. Never has that been more evident than yesterday, when the news broke that John Lannan was optioned to AAA Syracuse in favor of Ross Detwiler (and, eventually, Chien-Ming Wang). Remember, Lannan was the Nats’ Opening Day starter in both 2009 and ’10, and he just had his best season, at least based on ERA and wins, in ’11.

These aren’t the kick-around Nats, not anymore, and they don’t figure to be for some time. Four of the five starters ahead of Lannan are 26 or younger. The bullpen is a strength and anchored by 23-year-old Drew Storen, who had 45 saves and a 1.02 WHIP last year. The lineup is average, and has 19-year-old Bryce Harper and 21-year-old Anthony Rendon on the way.

All of which isn’t to say the Nats will win the pennant this year, as some are prognosticating, but it is to say the Nats should finally be good and will be for many years to come. Still, should’s got nothing to do with it.

Which leads me to this. The D.C. chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association was kind enough to include us in their 2012 Nats survey, and my answers are listed below. Follow the link for the full results, and comment away with your predictions.

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DMV: The Skins and the Playoffs

Um, the Redskins are actually favored to win the NFC East now. [Bog]

Stats: The Skins have a 44% chance at the playoffs. [SBN D.C., FO]

The Skins are ranked 8-10 in league-wide power rankings [The Insider]

Carlos Rogers has three picks already as a 49er. [Trail of Burgundy Tears]

Jim Zorn’s motivational tactic in Kansas City? Cornhole. [Shutdown Corner]

Remember: Tomas Vokoun is statistically awesome. [Caps Insider]

Bruce Boudreau kind of called out Alex Ovechkin. [Capitals Talk]

A mini-doc about 24/7 starring last year’s stars, the Capitals. [Puck Daddy]

The top 10 reasons you know Caps season is here. [Rock the Red]

Bryce Harper is off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League. [Nats Blog]

Colin Balestar is up for Mustachioed Man of the Year. [Capital Games]

Trying to figure out who’ll be the Orioles’ next GM. [O's Insider]

The “Gary Williams Court” ceremony will happen for Duke. [Testudo Times]

DMV: Strasburg’s Back, Pretty Much

Stephen Strasburg’s first post-Tommy John action lasted eight batters and 31 pitches. It also featured four strikeouts and a 98-mph heater. [WaPo]

Video of Strasburg’s 2011 debut. [Nats Enquirer, Bog]

Why the Nats’ timeline for Strasburg’s return makes sense. [Nats Insider]

Video of Bryce Harper’s wild dash on an inside-the-parker. [Nats Enquirer]

Nats win on Jayson Werth’s game-winning hit, split with Colorado. [WaPo]

O’s lose to Toronto, haven’t won a series since late June. [The Sun]

The Redskins’ new punter, Sav Rocca, has finally arrived. [The Insider]

Behind the scenes of last week’s Redskins free-agent frenzy. [WaPo]

LaRon Landry still hasn’t recovered from his Achilles injury. [Burgundy Blog]

Skins sign 2010 Pittsburgh 7th-rounder/DT Doug Worthington. [The Insider]

Skins release their 2009 6th-rounder/LB Robert Henson. [The Insider]

Three big questions as JMU football practice begins. [JMU Sports Blog]