I was pretty excited to watch both the Nats and O’s possibly clinch their respective division championships last night. What ended up happening, though, is I fell asleep on the couch after putting the kids to bed, and woke up well past the Nats party and just as the O’s party was getting started.
Thankfully, my brother Chris only has one kid, not three, so he was able to stay up and take pictures of his TV. Fun!
1. Bryce came prepared
2. This is how it’s done
3. Another reason to hate Soriano
4. Kevin Frandsen’s most important contribution this year
5. Meanwhile, in Baltimore …
It is only September 17th. Rest up for October.
I tend to overlook ZNN because he’s been here, and he wasn’t a big draft pick or acquisition to begin with. He has just pitched his ass off ever since arriving for good four years ago.
Aiding the invisibility is the fact that he’s been remarkably consistent along the way …
*ERA 2010-13: 3.18, 2.94, 3.25, 3.00
*WHIP ’10-13: 1.15, 1.17, 1.09, 1.17
*K/BB ’10-13: 4.0, 3.6, 4.0, 5.8
If you look at that last number, this year is actually a bit of a breakout. He’s posting career bests in both strikeout rate (8.3 K/9) and walk rate (1.4 BB/9). Neat trick.
Zimmermann, 28, is a Nat through 2015. I imagine he’ll be overlooked no more.
A quick post to share my thoughts and gather your own …
The Nats got 28-year-old shortstop/2B (and two-time All-Star!) Asdrubal Cabrera from Cleveland for middling infield prospect Zach Walters, who’s almost 25 himself. He’s a slight-but-clear upgrade over Espinosa at second until Zimmerman comes back, if Zim comes back. He’s also a rental, seeing as how he’ll hit free agency this fall.
The O’s got 29-year-old badass lefty reliever Andrew Miller from Boston for decent lefty SP prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. Miller’s ERA has been below 3.00 and his K/9 IP above 14 each of the past two seasons. Yes, please. Like Cabrera, his contract is up at the end of the year. Fangraphs has a good breakdown.
Walters and Rodriguez may pan out elsewhere, but it’s not worth fretting over. It’s July 31st, the Nats and O’s are in first place, and they’re now at least marginally better for a World Series run. Carpe diem.
Throwing behind the baserunner from left field after a routine single? Sure, why not.
Adam LaRoche had to make a nice play to get the baserunner and keep him out of scoring position, but whatever: I like my Bryce wild and out of control, at least in July. Sports are fun.
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.
Following our first-half Winners & Losers, here’s Bryan Frantz with a look at this Nats’ season so far, and what lies ahead.
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:
*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.
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.
It’s been some time! Let’s hand out midseason labels …
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.
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:
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.