Category Archives: Nationals

Bryce Harper Will Try Anything At This Point

Bryce Harper’s new “stack and jack” batting stance has been working. Since changing to it on July 18, he was 7-for-13 with one of his three home runs of the season coming into last night’s game. But then he decided to add a new wrinkle to it — some sort of batter’s box shuffle.

I have no idea what this is; I have never seen anyone do this.

It didn’t work, and resulted in one of Harper’s three strikeouts in an 0-for-4 day. Still, his production since the break has been promising. Hopefully it continues, because with Zimmerman now out* for the foreseeable future, the Nats desperately need the post-break Bryce, not the .244/.316/.366 pre-break version.

*Related: Yesterday’s game brought back RFK memories, with Hairston, Lobaton, and Espinosa in the starting lineup.

Taking Stock of the Nats Coming Out of the Break

Following our first-half Winners & Losers, here’s Bryan Frantz with a look at this Nats’ season so far, and what lies ahead.

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Nats fans should be encouraged by the team’s showing, and Matt Williams has got to be pleased with the team’s 51-42 record. When you consider all of the factors — offensive stagnancy for stretches, so many impact players missing time with injury, Bryce Harper struggling with both of the aforementioned, Ian Desmond spending time atop the leaderboard for fielding errors, Ryan Zimmerman being unable to play the position he’s held for years, a consistent inability to beat the Braves (3-7 so far) — it’s easy to see how the Nationals could be sitting at 42-51 (or worse).

But thanks to a bounce-back year from Adam LaRoche, a breakout season from Anthony Rendon (who’s apparently not a baseball fan), Desmond regaining his fielding acumen and some flat-out dominant pitching, the Nats hold a slim lead for first in the NL East, third in the NL and seventh in MLB.

Let me throw some numbers at you to show how good this team’s pitching has been compared to the rest of MLB:

*lowest ERA
*fewest walks allowed
*second in HRs allowed
*best strikeout/walk ratio

The Nats don’t have any impressive stats to show off when it comes to team batting or fielding, though, unless they’re bragging about how good their record is despite those things.

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Tyler Clippard Earned It

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The news that the Nats will have an all-star after all, and that that all-star will be Tyler Clippard, is a little puzzling. Basically because Rafael Soriano is the closer, and he has a 0.97 ERA to boot.

Clippard’s ERA (2.03) isn’t quite there, but his other numbers are. He leads the pen in innings (40) and strikeouts (53), and he handles high-leverage eighth-inning situations. Plus, he’s been doing it for years.

This may be his best year, though. His FIP’s never been lower (2.49), and his Ks per nine innings have never been higher (11.9).

It’s Clippard’s second all-star selection. You could say he’s come a long way since Jim Bowden got him for nothing.

Nats 2014 First-Half Winners & Losers

It’s been some time! Let’s hand out midseason labels …

Jordan Zimmermann

Winners

Jordan Zimmermann — After winning 19 last year he’s clearly been the Nats’ best starter this year, which is not an easy thing to be.

Doug Fister — Even better than he was in Detroit.

Tanner Roark — A crash seems likely, but he’s been fantastic.

Adam LaRoche — My dad says LaRoche can’t hit,* which doesn’t speak highly for the Nats, because ALR leads them in OPS (.863). He’s actually posting a career-best OPS+, too (139). Must be the beard.

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Bryce Harper Has An Awesome A$AP Rocky Shirt

The first-place Nats won in 16 at Milwaukee last night on Ryan Zimmerman and the bullpen’s heroics, and Bryce Harper homered in a rehab start at Potomac, but this is what I choose to blog about:

If you can’t read it, Bryce’s t-shirt says, “I LOVE BAD PITCHES THAT’S MY XXXXX PROBLEM.” And if you don’t know what that’s a reference to, here’s A$SAP Rocky’s “F**kin’ Problems,” which is a jam:

And if it’s jams you want, here are my top three candidates for the 2014 Song of Summer, with a primary assist from Rubie Edmondson:

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Mike Morse Is Taking On A Two-Year-Old Debate

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After an injury-plagued 2013 that saw our old hero Mike Morse bottom out, he’s having a dream season, posting a .295/.351/.574 slash line for the league-leading Giants. Oh and he’s still not over the great Stephen Strasburg shutdown of 2012:

“A lot of people don’t realize you might only get one shot,” Morse says. “One shot. That could have been the only shot. I just wish we could have given it everything we had, but we didn’t.”

[...]

“It was such a weird feeling,” Morse says. “I kept watching Stras throwing bullpens, still running, still doing his thing. I thought, ‘Man, maybe he’s going to come out of the bullpen.’ Or in Game 5, the lights are going to turn off, the spotlight is going to come on, he’s going to run out.

“I remember talking to guys like Mark DeRosa, and they said, ‘This could be your one and only shot.’ It made sense what they were saying to me.”

The piece, reported and written by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, says the shutdown “still haunts several of [Morse's] former teammates today.” To which I’d say, get over it.

Washington didn’t lose because they didn’t have Strasburg; they lost because they choked in Game 5. Also relevant to the discussion: Strasburg has had good health and been one of baseball’s best pitchers ever since.

Anyway. I still like Morse quite a bit and wish him all the best in San Francisco. I just wish he’d quit bringing up old shit.

Okay, The Nats Can Stop Getting Hurt Now

A list of injuries the Nats have suffered in this still-young season:

*Doug Fister, strained lat — Hasn’t pitched. Slated for a Single-A rehab start today.

*Wilson Ramos, broken hand — Played one game. Should be back around June 1.

*Ryan Zimmerman, broken thumb — Played 10 games. Should be back late May.

*Denard Span, concussion — Missed a week. Has an even worse than usual .293 OBP since.

That’s the No. 4 starter/big offseason acquisition, catcher/Opening Day cleanup hitter, third baseman/face of the franchise and centerfielder/leadoff hitter. Ouch.

And now this is happening:

Though the full extent of his left thumb injury remains unclear, the Nationals placed Bryce Harper on the 15-day disabled list with a thumb sprain after he visited a hand specialist and received an MRI on Saturday.

Oh, Bryce. He who missed 30-plus games last year may miss another 30 with this. Or not, but still. Hold me, Ray.

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The Nats have persevered so far, going 14-11. That’s a 90-win pace. If the season ended today, they’d be a Wild Card team.

With Fister out, the Tanner Roark-Taylor Jordan debate has been settled. With Ramos out, new guy Jose Labaton has established himself behind the plate. With Zim out, Anthony Rendon moved to third and Danny Espinosa reemerged at second. And with Span out, well, the team doesn’t lose that much, really.

Maybe, in the long run, all this struggle makes them stronger. Hard to see a silver lining in Harper going down, though.

He was replaced in the lineup yesterday by 31-year-old utility man Kevin Frandsen. Someone named Steven Souza Jr. replaces him on the roster.

Nats Save The Day From Going Full D.C. Sports

Please welcome back guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant.

This was not a good day for D.C. sports. The Wizards lost to the Bobcats and put a serious damper on their chances of playing anybody but the Pacers or Heat in the playoffs, and the Capitals were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It was almost a truly, one-for-the-ages miserable day when the Nationals got very close to losing a heartbreaker to the Marlins, but the local baseball team managed to put together something close to a miracle and salvage hope for the city’s sports teams.

The Nats game was eerily similar to the Wiz game. Both teams were playing at home. Both opponents have recently been somewhat of a laughingstock. Both games saw the home team face a large deficit early — Wiz were down 20 in the first half, Nats were down five after two innings. Both teams mounted an improbable comeback to take the lead. Both teams then watched that lead disappear.

After that, the two took opposite paths. The basketball game went to overtime, where the Wizards put up, somewhat incredibly, one point. Home team loses 94-88. The Caps were on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs, a reality that was solidified a few minutes later when the Red Wings and Blue Jackets both earned points in their games.

Meanwhile, in the baseball game, Bryce Harper pulled himself out of his season-opening slump with a three-run monster of a home run that capped off a 10-pitch AB. Shortly thereafter, the Nats picked up a few more runs that put them in the lead, 6-5. But, because this is D.C., the home team had to make the game as difficult on itself as possible. Newly designated RP Ross Detwiler came on in the seventh to give up a leadoff solo shot to bring the game back to a tie, then Tyler Clippard gave up two walks and a double in the eighth to put the Nats behind again.

After the Wiz had just watched their impressive rally end in disappointment, the Nats seemed destined for a similar fate. But they’re the Nats. They certainly have had their share of “D.C. moments,” but they’ve had some success over recent years. (You could argue the Caps had more, but I would counter that the Nats have compiled more talent and have more promise, while the Caps just have Alex Ovechkin.)

And so Jayson Werth, as he’s done before, came up huge for the Nats. Down 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, they had the bases loaded with one out and Werth at the plate. You know what’s coming. He crushed a fastball into the left field dugout of Nats Park to put the Nats ahead for good.

Werth, Harper, Anthony Rendon and the rest of the Natss managed to salvage what was almost a heartbreaking day for D.C. sports with a thrilling victory, against a division rival, no less. Once again, they’re providing Washington sports fans hope and entertainment for the months leading up to football season. Now, about football season …

Wilson Ramos Hurt His Hand, Which Doesn’t Hurt That Bad

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Nats starting catcher and Opening Day cleanup hitter Wilson Ramos reportedly fractured his left hand today on a foul tip, which is a very Wilson Ramos thing to do. (He’s only played more than 78 games in a season just once.)

We don’t know how serious it is or how long he’ll be out, but here’s a quick crack at what it could mean:

*In 231 career games with the Nats, Ramos’ Baseball Reference WAR is 4.9. It’s 5.3 on Fangraphs.

*Assuming Ramos misses two months or about 40 games, that’s a dropoff of about 0.9 WAR, so long as we also assume his replacement plays at replacement level.

*The replacement is Jose Lobaton, who posted a 1.5/1.4 WAR last season in 100 games with Tampa.

Meaning, while it stinks to lose Ramos at all, this shouldn’t hurt the Nats too bad. Maybe a game or less in the standings. And oh yeah, they won in 10 today.

Also, I know very little about WAR specifically and fancy stats in general. We may be doomed.