In case you missed the first half of the season. Or even if you didn’t. Courtesy of Bog man Scott Allen.
— thom loverro (@thomloverro) June 9, 2015
I guess Larry Michael was not available.
Update: Loverro wrote about this awards thing for the Washington Times, which, from a user experience standpoint, must be the worst news site I’ve ever visited.
1. Bryce Harper’s OPS+ is 216, the highest since Barry Bonds broke baseball in 2004. This is what happens when you go on the hottest 50-plate appearance streak in MLB history.
2. After posting a .200/.255/.326 slash line in 2013-14, Danny Espinosa is the Nats’ second-best hitter this year. His 2015 slash line is .257/.360/.459, all career highs.
3. Max Scherzer is leading MLB in FIP, which is what you want out of your $210 million pitcher. Cherish the thought of him and Jordan Zimmermann taking the ball in Games 1 and 2 (and 5 and 6).
4. Speaking of, ZNN is averaging a personal-worst 5.9 K/9IP, 21 percent below his career average.
5. Gio Gonzalez’s FIP (3.05) is fine. It’s his ERA (4.57) and WHIP (1.51) that are unseemly, but that fielding-independent number is in line with his three-year average since arriving in D.C. (3.09).
6. Stephen Strasburg’s batting average against is .325. (Bryce Harper is batting .326.)
7. Ian Desmond’s on-base percentage is .286. That’s 32 points below his career average. In a contract year, no less.
8. Ryan Zimmerman is on pace for 97 RBI, his most since 2009, despite a .622 OPS, his worst ever. This is what happens when you bat behind Harper and Yunel Escobar.
9. Speaking of, Escober is batting .325. That’s after batting .256 in 1,542 at-bats the past three seasons. An 89-point BABIP increase will do that for you.
10. Wilson Ramos has played in 79 percent of the games. I probably just jinxed the Buffalo.
11. Denard Span has five home runs, his highest total since ’09. He also has only three steals, 28 less than last season.
12. Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett’s combined ERA is 4.53. They are the two primary right-handed setup men. I miss Tyler Clippard and even Rafael Soriano.
13. Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon have 116 at-bats between them. The former is out until August, the latter came back last week.
14. Matt Williams has lost nine of 12 challenges. Nats opponents are 12 for 12 (via D.C. Sports Bog).
15. If the regular season ended today, the Nats’ season would be over. (They’re second place in the NL East, half a game back, and fourth in the Wild Card, 1.5 back.)
This had to feel so good.
Riding a six-game losing streak, mired in last place, reeling from Anthony Rendon’s continually balky knee, missing Max Scherzer for a start and getting pounded 9-1 in Atlanta, the Nats came back to win 13-12 with Dan Uggla, who’s so bad that the Braves are still paying him just to be rid of him, hitting the game-winning homer in the ninth. Whew.
— William Ladson (@washingnats) April 13, 2015
What would make William Ladson, who has covered the Nationals franchise since 2002, tweet that during Monday’s Nats-Red Sox game? Well, how about this:
Or maybe THIS from the SAME INNING:
Or maybe it was Ian Desmond’s fifth error in seven games (thankfully not pictured).
Can we just hit reset on this season?
Big news out of Nats camp is they’ve released utility man Kevin Frandsen (via @ZuckermanCSN). He didn’t hit much in his one season with the Nats (.259/.299/.309 in 220 at-bats), but that doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute in other ways.
Kevin Frandsen: "THERE IS NO WRONG PIPE!" https://t.co/vd2toaBEiY
— Chris Mottram (@ChrisMottram) September 17, 2014
Happy trails, dude. There is no wrong pipe.
(Vine taken from last year’s division championship celebration.)
In an otherwise excellent Grantland piece outlining the Nationals for what they’re projected to be — a 100-win team, which is an increasingly rare creature in MLB — Rany Jazayerli strikes a nerve:
It is widely assumed within the industry that Boras was a driving force behind Rizzo’s worst decision as GM of the Nationals: shutting Strasburg down in September 2012 with the team barreling toward its first playoff berth since moving to Washington. It still makes no sense that the Nationals would jeopardize their postseason chances in order to theoretically protect Strasburg’s long-term health, but such is the cost of keeping Boras placated.
Regardless of Boras’ influence and what you think of Rizzo’s decision, the move made sense then and makes even more now. The facts:
*Strasburg was in his first full post-Tommy John season, and the plan heading in was to limit him to 160 innings.
*When Strasburg hit 160, in early September with the Nats up 6.5 games, he was shut down.
*Buzz bombs went off left and right about how silly the Nats were for this, especially as compared to Atlanta, which was in a similar situation with Kris Medlin. He was used in relief through July before moving to the rotation in August, effectively keeping his innings down.
*The Nats lost in the first round of the playoffs, dropping a heartbreaker to St. Louis. Strasburg’s would’ve-been start was given to Ross Detwiler, who pitched six innings, allowing one unearned run.
*The Cardinals were in that series because they beat the Braves in the Wild Card game. Medlin started and picked up the loss, allowing five unearned runs.
*In the two seasons since 2012, Strasburg has thrown 398 ace-level innings, posting a 3.08 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 433 strikeouts. Medlen was very good in 2013 but required a second Tommy John Surgery in 2014. He’s now attempting a comeback with Kansas City.
So yeah, flags fly forever and all, but the Nats had a plan, they stuck to it, and it’s working out pretty well. This is the same plan, by the way, that they executed to similar effect with fellow ace Jordan Zimmermann.
Rather than risk the future by squeezing a few playoff starts out of Strasburg, they attempted to bolster their fortune for years to come, effectively spreading more bets across the roulette table that is the MLB Playoffs.
That’s the thing with October baseball, you never know. From the same Grantland piece linked above:
Since 1986, 26 teams have won 100 games, but just two of them — the 1998 and 2009 Yankees — won the World Series.
Two out of 26! The Nats won 98 games in 2012 and 96 in 2014, yet didn’t make it out of the first round either year. The Braves made the playoffs 14 times in 15 years but only won it all once. The A’s have made it eight times in 15 years without even winning a series.
The point being, while this year’s Nats are as stacked as a modern team can be, they probably won’t go all the way. The best-case scenario is they win the division and get about a 1-in-8 chance of winning three straight playoff series. That was the best-case scenario in 2012, too.
The Worldwide Leader unveiled a rather cool feature yesterday, The Great Analytics Rankings, sorting all 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams by “the strength of each franchise’s analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics.” I don’t know what biometric data is, but this is interesting nonetheless, at least as it pertains to our favorite teams.
We’ll start with the good. The Nats and O’s are both labeled as “believers,” meaning they rank somewhere in the top half among MLB teams. For the O’s, it’s thanks to “GM Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter and pitching coordinator Rick Peterson, all of whom are respected for their analytical thinking,” though “they need a more coherent, holistic approach and a stronger investment to compete with division rivals Tampa Bay, Boston and New York.”
When your team hands out the second largest contract for a pitcher in history, as they did when they signed Max Scherzer to a $210 million deal today, it takes some time to wrap your head around it. Especially when your team already has the best rotation in baseball. And especially especially when what your team desperately needs is more offense.
So, what to make of all this? After consulting Twitter and reading the Internet, here’s my best attempt at figuring it all out.
1) Max Scherzer is Jordan Zimmermann’s replacement
The Nationals knew that Zimmermann only has one more season in Washington. He’s a free agent after this year, and all signs point to him leaving town. Specifically, the two sides being unable to reach a long-term deal before last season, instead settling for a two-year band-aid. So, they signed his replacement a year early to a deal that is likely similar to what ZNN will get on the open market. (And this is to say nothing of the fact that Doug Fister is also a free agent after this season.)
2) Trading Jordan Zimmermann is the ideal scenario
Now that Scherzer has been signed, their best case is to trade Zimmermann and get a bat in return. He’s gone anyway, might as well get something for him. And that sounds great, but that two-year deal he signed is backloaded. The Nats would need to find a trading partner willing to take on the $16.5 million ZNN is owed in 2015 with no guarantee of being able to secure him beyond that.