Nationals Baseball

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How is everyone doing?

Cold? Hot? It doesn't really matter as (1) we really can't quantify when these streaks begin and end and (2) even if we could there is a lot of down time between game 162 and the next game you play nowadays so there's plenty of time for a reset. Still it's nice to know who has been doing well and who has been doing poorly because it could be a measure not of a hot or cold streak but of something more. Injury? Fatigue? Something clicked?

Who's hot
Werth : . 324 / .478 / .479  Sept; .462 / .588 / .692 in last week
Rendon :  .337 / .429 / .506; .333 / .500 / .583
LaRoche : .263 / .352 / .539 (7 homers); .375 / .444 / .563
Span : .321 / .394 / .488; .500 / .545 / .600

The LaRoche one is the most important to me as he was ice cold in July and hit a measley .235 in August (with decent patience and power though). When LaRoche is off that's 1/3rd of the LHB that you like, and your best source of power, taken from the lineup. It's good to see it doesn't appear to be age slowing him down at the end of a long season.

Who's warming
Desmond : .277 / .351 / .458; but .286 / .421 / .571 in past week

Another good sign because when Desmond is off he can be a black hole with his propensity to strike out.

Who's cold
Espinosa : .250 / .323 / .286;  .231 / .286 / .231
Ramos : .203 / 323 / .286;  .200 / .200 / .200
Cabrera : .217 / .290 / .361; .133 / .278 / .200
Zimmerman : .188 / .235 / .188 past week

Boz talked about how nice it would be to have a rested catcher ready, but I'm not sure that extra days off is going to matter here for Ramos. Despite the lost time this is still the most games Ramos has played in since 2011. There is no good answer at 2nd and AssCab is showing why the Indians would deal him for Adam Dunn v2.2.

The Zimm thing is most worrying to me though.  Ramos has to play and we knew 2nd base would be an issue, but Zimm is a choice. He's been slow to warm up from injury before. Do the Nats feel forced to use his bat because of what it might bring? If so - it only makes sense right now to move Espy/Drubal out to make it happen, and that means Rendon to 2nd. All it will take is one 0-4 for Rendon at the keystone for fans to rebel on that plan.

Anything else?
Bryce is doing fine. Just didn't fit in this line of thinking. A little better recently but not enough that I I'd put him in "warming"

Bench-wise Scheirholz and Moore are doing the best which GOD I hope doesn't effect bench choices. Both Hairston and Frandsen are rounding into form, and by that I mean they aren't embarrassing. The only bench guy looking like a nothing is Lobaton, but you can't leave him out.

Pitching? You know the starters are all doing really really well. Either overall (for everyone not named Gio) or more recently (for everyone).  How are the relievers doing? I'll note these "recent" numbers are very rough. Don't take it to be end all be all - this is far more "just noting" than what we were looking at with the batters.

Hot :
Storen 0.00 ERA 0.811 WHIP, in Sept; 0.00 ERA, 0.833 WHIP recently (2 weeks because 1 week is unworkable).
Barrett 0.00 ERA, 0.857 WHIP; 0.00, 1.00 WHIP

There hasn't been a lot of great pen work this past month. I didn't include Thorton even with his low recent ERA because of a high WHIP and a tiny IP (3.1). Even Barrett is pushing it at 7IP

Warming : 
Blevins : 3.00 ERA, 1.111 WHIP; 0.00 ERA, 0.462 WHIP

He might have kept himself on the roster. Although I'll warn you again that anything in the two weeks even is dealing with single digit innings - very big variance. One bad outings really screws with those numbers.

Cooling : 
Detwiler :  3.52 ERA, 1.174 WHIP; 10.13 ERA, 2.625

Case in point. Detwiler - this catches his getting beat up in the ATL game. I did leave him out though because his next two appearances weren't great either. a one out affair where he gave up a walk and a 1.1 IP where he gave up 2 hits.

Cold :
Stammen : 7.94 ERA, 2.118 WHIP;  22.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP

The funny thing with Stammen is that all the runs here come from a single terrible Marlins blow up. However Sept before that wasn't perfect - he pulled a couple of escapes from sticky situations he set out himself. and man that was a bad last outing. That's not a taste you want left in anyone's mouth. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Super Quickie

Some people would call that a statement game for the playoffs.  "We're here ! We're ready!" That's kind of silly. Actually, that's really sillly. The Nats didn't need a no-hitter to do that. That was accomplished by playing great baseball basically since the All-Star break. When they were hot they were dominant. 9-1 a couple weeks ago, 10-0 in mid-August, 9-3 at the end of June. When they were cold they were .500.The Nats didn't have a 3-7 stretch over 10 games since the end of May.

What was the game if not a statement? It was a culmination. The 2nd half of the Nats season was a starting pitching masterpiece. Fister 1.98 ERA, ZNN 2.18. Roark 2.65, Stras 2.70.  September was even better. Stras 1.13, ZNN 1.32, Fister 1.87, Roark 2.45, Gio 2.48.  The no-hitter was the exclamation point on that finish. You didn't notice what we were doing over here because the Braves have been dead for 10 years?  NOW YOU NOTICE.

Going into the playoffs the Nats have 5 guys pitching like #1s, 3 pitching like dominant #1s. It's a whole new seasons, but I expect the Nats to be favored like crazy at this point. I might even have to take back my "Kershaw 2-3x" caveat. (though the Dodgers have been pretty good themselves)

I'm also extremely glad the Nats now have a truly great OF catch to talk about. It was big time caused by the positioning of Souza. He was shaded down the line because you don't expect a lefty to drive it in the LF gap at this point. If it's a normal game the catch is probably nothing more than a nice running grab. But he was there and that forces the full sprint and the over the shoulder aspect that took the catch to a special level. No more Bernie's "unecessary jump because as usual I don't know where I am and probably took a bad track" (a top notch CF sprints, slows and catches that at the weird corner with a hand out to feel the wall). No more Werth's "robbing of a double off the top of the wall, maybe" from the playoffs. I'm all behind seeing this one for the next 20 years.

Playoff preview etc. coming this week. (Let's wait to see who the Nats face)

Will rest be an issue? If you go Stras, Fister, Gio ZNN then you got guys starting on 5, 7, and 7 days rest (Gio next would be on 11 days rest or so)

Span hit .300, Rendon led the league in R, Stras led the league (tied) in Ks, Desmond did not lead the league in Ks (3rd, Howard was 1st)  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shut it down.

As Strasburg gets ready to pitch Game 1, we all know what's coming. Pretty much our favorite thing in the world. Articles about the 2012 Shutdown!

Here's the thing to remember as people say "Shutdown was smart!" until the NLDS is over, where, if the Nats lost, it becomes "Shutdown was dumb!" again.

We know nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

We know nothing at all about whether the shutdown was a good idea because it was based on a hypothetical for which proving the negative is impossible. Here's what we might have, maybe, you can stretch and make an argument for, decided when it comes to the shutdown.
  • If the Nats didn't shut Strasburg down and he was injured in the playoffs or in Spring of the following season, you could say the shutdown was probably a good idea. 
  • If the Nats didn't shut Strasburg down and they went on to win the World Series and he was a big part of the winning, you could say the shutdown was probably a bad idea. 
  • If the Nats did shut Strasburg down and they went on to win the World Series, you could say the shutdown was probably a good idea. 

These equivocating, mealy-mouthed, maybes based on immediate results are the BEST we can say. For the first one, maybe he gets injured anyway. For the second maybe they would have won it anyway and maybe this hurts him long term. For the third, maybe they would have won it easier with him. We don't know. We can never know. We can't run alternate realities to see what would have happened. It's all conjecture.

Now we're years later. There are so many influencing factors on today outside of the shutdown that even mentioning it is idiotic. I'm more stupid for writing this piece about how it's stupid. Just because Strasburg is healthy right now proves nothing. Maybe pitching in the playoffs in 2012 would have made no difference on his arm. Maybe it would have hurt him, but the Nats would have made a trade for David Price and he'd be dominating, or rushed up Giolito and he'd be dominating. Who knows? Not you. Certainly not them.

What can you say about the shutdown? Same thing you could have said in October of 2012. I like it or I don't like it.  Rizzo basically admitted a few days ago that he punted on 2012 by shutting Strasburg down when he said "I think the best team wins" in regards to the playoffs. He made the Nats worse. Of course that's how I see it. BUT maybe Rizzo figured the Nats weren't the best even with Strasburg, so losing him didn't matter. Or he thought that the Nats were the best even without Strasburg, so again losing him doesn't matter. Neither of these make sense to me but hey, I'm not in his head.

What I'm saying is you can basically ignore any article in the next few weeks that talks about the shutdown, unless it's titled "What I thought about the shutdown and why that moment has little to no bearing on the Nats of today" Anything else is a steaming pile of nothing.


We've kind of joked Strasburg's biggest problem is not himself but Kershaw. Strasburg was supposed to be the best and the fact someone else clearly is hangs over Strasburg regardless of how well he actually pitches. But that first part "Strasburg was supposed to be the best" is a bit unfair. If you take a look at Stras' early major legaue numbers and Kershaw's you can see that Kershaw had a leg up on being the best because he's always been unhittable. (led the league in H/9 in 2nd year never above 7.0 after that). Kershaw's issues were control based and the eternal question for guys like that are can they get control and remain unhittable. For 99 out of 100 guys the answer is no. For Kershaw the answer was yes. Strasburg seemingly can max out his talent and it'll be hard for him to pass Kershaw because Strasburg has never been as unhittable. (best H/9 in a full year was 6.7) He can get close, but the numbers aren't favoring him.

The way I'd describe the two is Strasburg is Mark Prior if he was healthy. Kershaw is Kerry Wood if he had great control. That chase, the goal of harnessing the ultimate raw talent and creating a "best ever" pitcher, is the goal that keeps scouts coming back for more. That's why the Henry Rodriguez's get their share of chances. In 2012 for the Nats his H/9 was 5.8. That's impressive. Problem is his BB/9 was 6.8. That's the worst. But it's that 5.8 that keeps people coming back and why the Nats, Cubs, and Marlins all took shots with him since then. 

I suppose Oakland could still choke out (they lost another 2 one-run games bringing them to 2-9 in their last 11 one-run games, which they've played since the start of September, which is a crazy amount of 1-run games) but Seattle doesn't look inspired.  The Tigers too could choke out but I'm just not seeing it.   Really the race to watch is the NL Central. The Pirates have a tougher road (@CIN) than the Cardinals (@ARI) but one game is one game. Let's tie 'em up and make Sunday decide the division (because a 163 to decide a division isn't all that fun to me)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday AL

Strange to imagine it now but there was a time reeeeeal early in the season when we thought "Hmmm maybe the NL East isn't going to be as bad as we thought they were" On April 7th Miami would lead the division at 5-2. The Nats were 4-2, the Braves were 4-2, and the Phillies were 3-3. If everything went just right...

It didn't. The NL East sucks and the Nats are coasting on the dregs of this division. The Braves have given up. The Marlins lost their best player and team carrier. The Mets are currently fighting through the mental block that the Nats had with the Braves in previous years. The Phillies are run by Ruben Amaro.

Right now the 2nd best team in the NL, the second best, is on pace for 78 wins. You might say "That's because of the Nats, baby!" But only the Mets are dominated by the Nats. The Marlins have been handled, but not embarrassed (yet). The Braves and Phillies both have winning records against the Nats. No, the NL East's terribleness is real and it's spectacular. 

Anyway - this not discounting anything the Nats did. It's not like the Dodgers had a much tougher road with dregs like the Diamondbacks and Tulo-less Rockies. Just noting that the NL East turned out to have no 2nd team that was even good this season.

What's going on in the AL?  I was hoping for chaos (and a Yankee surprise) in the Wild Card. At the very least that required both SEA and KC to begin choking, and while SEA is being very accomodating, the Indians are pulling an Atlanta and barely showing up to their series with the Royals. That pretty much seals the deal for the Royals and A's as the Wild Card teams, with the Mariners holding onto an outside chance that will probably disappear tonight with another loss to Toronto and Cleveland taking and early flight home and forfeiting.

What does that leave us in the AL?

The Angels

The Angels are the real deal offensively. Their line-up has the same sort of "no-holes" make-up that the Nats do, but with better bats. They can hit for average and power, they walk allright, and they don't strike-out a crazy amount, especially now with Hamilton out of the line-up. Their only real issue comes from the fact that their former catcher manager loves his Hank Conger, so he'll steal some at bats from the better Chris Iannetta. The don't run as often but have a few players capable of doing so including their star Trout.The defense is solid with only Pujols being an issue.

Pitching wise they have big problems as their best arm, Garrett Richards, is out for the season. They've gotten some good results from fill-in young guys, but ran into some bad luck there as the best of them, Matt Shoemaker, got hurt. The truth is you only feel ok with Jered Weaver on the mound and that's only "ok" not great. If they can get to the pen that's a strength. They go four deep. Another thing that might help the Angels? Their weakness here lies in control more than anything. If the playoffs make bats jumpy these arms might be enough.

The Orioles

The Orioles are a good team offensively but are coasting on fumes right now. They relied a lot on the long ball this year but over the past few months lost Machado and Weiters, and are now waiting out a Chris Davis suspension. They've managed to keep up the pace with impressive part-time performances by the likes of David Lough, Jimmy Paredes, Ryan Flaherty, Alejadro De Aza, and Kelly Johnson but does anyone have faith in that group to do damage for the next month? They don't walk at all, don't run well, and strike out a ton. I'd have real fear that in the playoffs they'd get eaten up in any park that wasn't homer friendly.

As for the pitching - it's solid. There isn't a standout performer in the rotation, but every guy they put out there keeps them in games. Part of this is great defense up the middle of the infield with Schoop and Hardy, combined with no real problems in the field. It's the back of the pen where they really shine as Britton, O'Day and Miller all are shutdown type guys who can be expected to hold onto any late lead.

The Tigers

The Tigers are a top heavy team offensively. Miggy and Victor Martinez are great and JD Martinez has had a fantastic year. But the drop off after them is substantial. After Torii Hunter you have a lot of meh guys and they've never solved their SS issue leaving them with a big hole. In theory if you can pitch around those three you should be able to take care of the Tigers, but it's tough to pitch around three guys, so the real fear is not that another teams pitchers can come in and dominate this lineup but rather one or two of these guys go cold and the offense can't score. We saw it happen mid-season. 

The pitching is supposed to be their strength and it could be once it has been pared down in the playoffs. Price and Scherzer, could dominate for short periods. Beyond that, though, it gets hazy fast. The third guy out there should be Sanchez but he's been relegated to a relief role post-injury. The next guy out there maybe should be Lobstein but it's hard to rely on a rookie. Porcello is inconsistent. Verlander has the #1 cache but is clearly their worst starter this year. The pen doesn't inspire much confidence either with no one being consistently good and the aging Joe Nathan unable to close games effectively. (Don't blame him - he is 39 - that's older than me!). Not helping is the Tigers D. Miggy was never good. Castellanos hasn't shown anything. Hunter has aged out of playing OF.  Martinez is useless out there. If you can avoid the GB up the middle you have a decent shot at a hit. 

The A's

Poor Oakland. Honestly they are probably the second best team in the AL but they play in the division with the best team and they've watched luck bite them the past few weeks, at one point playing 8 one-run affairs in 9 games and going 1-7 in them. Was something lost with Cespedes? Possibly, but there are better explanations. Norris (catcher) and Crisp (old) have worn down. Moss, Reddick, and Lowrie always felt more like complementary players than straight good ones and having them all do well at same time was unusual. Only Josh Donaldson remains a bat to worry about. They get by on patience most of all, leading the AL in walks, and as increased pressure forces guys to feel like they need to swing that works to their disadvantage. It not a terrible offense, but it's not league leading worthy either.

Their pitching is strong and it'll only look better if they can get past that WC game. They've brought in a number of arms Lester, Samardzija and Hammel (who's come on strong) who help bolster a rotation that had a lot of decent but unreliable home-grown talent. The relief pitching is not dominating but strong. Their one weakness would be giving up the longball but if they can avoid that the pitching can carry this team.

The Royals

Why is Kansas City here? A good pitching staff and finally getting some breaks. The offense... ehhh it's admittedly rough. Alex Gordon is good, not great, and he's the best bat they have as none of those young studs (Hosmer, Moustakas) have developed. They don't walk (15th in BB) or hit homers (15th in HRs). Brought in to help with that is our old friend Josh Willingham. What they do is put the ball in play (last in K's) and run (first in SBs) manufacturing runs. You think that would only work at home, but in an age where scoring is getting depressed, this type of play has increased in value.  They also supplement this with good defense, including the best outfield in the majors.

The pitching is alot like the O's. Solid starters, great pen. I do like the Royals starters more in the sense that they are better equipped to pull out a gem. Ventura, Shields, maybe Duffy now. At the same time you can't go into a game expecting it.  Holland, Davis, Herrera. act as a 3-team stopper. (what happened to Aaron Crow? He's pitched poorly the past month and dropped out of key out position).

What does this all feel like? It's a tough road for the O's. They don't match up well with the Angles (in theory) and the other parks are death to their homer-heavy offense. The Tigers especially would worry me with the cavernous Comerica in October and some bats that could punish the good but not great pitching of the Os. The only team in fact I like less than the O's are the Royals who are really just lucky to be here. The Angles are the clear favorite, but the Tigers and A's hold decent shots. For the A's it's going to depend on if they can scratch out wins as the pitching looks to be secure but the hitting is doubtful to be a force. For the Tigers it'll be about the pitching and hitting meeting somewhere winnable. The Angels though get the nod because for them it's just the pitching staying the course. The bats should carry them through. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Puppy Kicking

I assume that's what I did yesterday based on some reactions.  You've come here before. You know I tend to focus more on the "what needs improvement" as opposed to the "what's going along swimmingly" That's the way this thing rolls. Just because I say Rizzo's true test is what happens with the Nats after 2015, doesn't mean I don't think he's a good GM.  I do.  Just because I say the Nats lack a true superstar hitter that you trust to come through regardless of the pitcher on the mound, doesn't mean I don't think the Nats are favorites to reach the World Series. I do.

On the latter I said I do like the Dodgers over the Nats in a "Kershaw starts in Game 1" scenario.  But I give the Nats a better chance to beat the WC winner than I do the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals. Overall I'd give the Nats a slight edge as long as they hold onto that #1 seed (which seems very likely).  I haven't really thought about the World Series possibilities. We'll just hold off on that until that chance gets a bit more into focus.

Hmmm hmmm Well what else do we talk about?  The playoffs begin a week from today (AL WC). For the Nats it's a while though, a week from Friday. In the meantime, we're going to watch how they use Zimm and Soriano. I have a hard time seeing Soriano being left off the post-season roster and you know Zimm won't be, so let's see what happens over the next few games. That should tell us all we need to know about how they'll be used in the playoffs. We'll also sit and wait for the formal announcement of Gio as the 4th starter.  I will note, this doesn't actually have to happen until either the Nats lose an NLDS game or the NLCS starts. They could just not say anything because best case the Nats won't need a 4th starter until like October 15th.

The "funtracker" stuff 

Span :  . 298 . Back of the envelope has him needing 9 hits for the rest of the season to get up to .300. Maybe 10. Certainly doable. One or two hot games at any time would likely do it.

Rendon : 5 runs ahead of Pence. Unless Rendon just stops scoring he'll take this easy.

Desmond : 3 K's behind Howard, tied with Byrd. Stanton's injury knocked him out of the running but it looks like Desmond will just fall short to one of the Phillies.

Strasburg : He's 7 ahead of Cueto and Kershaw. Both he and Kershaw have one start left, so barring something really terrible/special he'll stay ahead of Clayton. Cueto could start twice, which would give him a decent shot. Does he start that meaningless last game when he's already at  235 innings? I think he might, if it could be win #20.

The playoffs

Any idea of how you'd like to see games covered? I'm going to do what works for me, obviously, but there could be several things that fit that bill.  Live tweet? Some sort of chat room? Nothing - you'll be too busy watching the games to be on a computer (how OLD are you)? Nothing - you'll be AT the game? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Quickie - Don't let it get away from you

A couple follow-up thoughts on things :

The innings thing with Roark makes little sense to me at this point. There is an argument for pulling him from the rotation to save wear and tear on an arm that hasn't pitched more than 160 innings ever. Or better said, there was an argument.  He's at 192 innings this year. He'll make his next start tonight. So he'll be at 198 or so.

For those that want to save his arm, Roark will most definitely be #4 if he was in the rotation. At most a #4 will pitch 3 times in a postseason with lots of rest inbetween.  Are you honestly saying "198 innings is fine, but 216? ARE YOU CRAZY THAT'LL BREAK HIS ARM!!!!" If the Nats wanted to rest Tanner they should have already started down that path. At this point the whole innings pitched point is moot to me. Other reasons to keep him out of the rotation might be reasonable but not this one.

One thing to remember about Soriano - we're judging him at his worst right now. Part of the decision making process is taking into account recent results, but part of it is not letting recent results cloud your judgment of how good a player really is.  Less than 6 weeks ago Soriano was holding opponents to a .188 / .254 / .297 line and had a WHIP under 1.00.  Are you going to dismiss months of work because of what you've seen recently? Honestly YOU CAN. Those 6 weeks matter more than the 6 weeks before that because they are closer to the "now", but don't dismiss the work Soriano had done before today out of hand. Consider it thoroughly then make your decision.

There are these "The Nats aren't letting up", and "the starters are awesome" themes that have been dominating the post-clinch coverage the past week. Those are nice stories.  It's also true that those aren't objective looks at the team, but rather the positive feel-good vibes taking over at a positive feel-good time.

Oh, it's true that they've gone 12-3 and their starting pitching ERA is back to the crazy level of that mid-season stretch that had us all excited.  It's also true that they are feasting on the fat part of their schedule, taking on no teams with good offenses (otherwise known as the NL East). The Phillies are below average. The Mets are below average with a healthy Daniel Murphy and he was recovering when playing the Nats. The Braves are awful and in a tailspin. The Marlins might be ok... but without Stanton I'd imagine they drop behind the Phillies and Mets. The pitching should dominate these teams and the Nats should win these games.

In fact they should win these games convincingly... and they haven't really. The pitching is doing their part and we should be happy about that. These are bad offenses but they aren't just holding them in check they are shutting them down. Still they've won 5 of 12 by one run, 2 more by two.  All in all they've had one blowout win during this whole streak and they've averaged 3.8 runs per game. Blame the resting line-ups if you want but there it is. This doesn't mean the Nats are playing poorly (pythag expectation would have them at 10-5 or 11-4 during this stretch), but it does mean against lesser competition (MIA and PHI both have bad staffs, the Mets are ok) the Nats offense is scuffling along letting the starting pitching do the heavy lifting. If you think that'll work in the playoffs... well it might but I would rather see the team really play well in all aspects of the game going into the playoffs, rather than it's going now, with the Nats winning and us just assuming they aren't having any issues.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Decisions, decisions, decisions

We've talked about these all before but since it's pretty much all we have to talk about (other than home filed advantage) let's go through where we are on the three questions facing the Nats for the postseason.

1- What's the rotation?

It should be a simple answer. You take your 1 through 4 pitcheres (or maybe even 1 through 3) and there's your playoff rotation.  The problem for the Nats is that their rotation is not easily defined. Let's not kid ourselves here.  As much as some may want to include Strasburg in the conversation and there is a legit "fancy stats" argument for including Fister in it too, the decision comes down to Gio vs Roark. Roark has pitched better, clearly so, but Gio hasn't pitched badly and is the Nats only LH starter.

Will the splits matter? I talked about it before but here they are in black and white. OPS totals

STL vs LHP  .712
STL vs RHP  .685

PIT vs LHP  .690
PIT vs RHP  .750

MIL vs LHP  .702
MIL vs RHP  .717

LAD vs LHP  .695
LAD vs RHP  .743

SFG vs LHP  .712
SFG vs RHP  .703

 There is no real case to be made for starting Gio because of splits for three opponents. The Pirates seem like an obvious choice but with Alvarez out for the year at this point the lefty-advantage mostly comes down to Neil Walker, who loses all his power when facing lefties (looking at it now Ike Davis / Gaby Sanchez washes out). The Dodgers are a possibility too as  Adrian Gonzalez, and strangely enough Puig, both are much better hitters versus righties. Gonzalez is basically completely nuetralized by a lefty.  (Ethier is as well but you figure he wouldn't start that game)

But do we even care about splits?  The idea is not just to make them face a lefty to hurt them in that game, but to make them face a lefty to throw off the batters for the series. Seeing righty after righty may allow the bats to get comfortable in a way that wouldn't happen if they have to adjust for a lefty.  Poppycock? Perhaps but it's a line of thinking.

The other big reason to start Gio would be relief experience. Gio hasn't appeared in relief since 2009 while Roark did so as recently as August of last year.  But that doesn't mean that Roark has a ton of relief experience. Tanner isn't a converted reliever and hasn't been used primarily out of the pen since 2009. (Gio never has) So whatever advantage Roark might have as a reliever - one has to believe it's minimal. In fact Gio's make up - relies on fewer pitches has the faster FB, would tend to be favored for relief in comparison. Of course if you delve into armchair psychology you can come up with other reasons (how will Gio react to demotion? Roark's been there just last year should be ok with it.)

If it's that tough why not use all 5? Well, that could be done but the days off built into the playoffs make it hard enough to keep four pitchers on a good rest schedule. Add in a 5th and you could easily have pitchers waiting a week between starts.

In the end I think Roark is the better call because he's the better pitcher right now, but Gio isn't a bad call. I expect the Nats to use Gio not Roark for the simple reason that Gio has been their starter for years and his use can be justified. A Gonzo-Roark combo is possible, but more likely is Roark being saved for any SP failure.

2 - Does Soriano make the postseason roster?

Soriano pitched a perfect 9th yesterday but  as we all know has been crashing since mid August putting up a 7.36 ERA and managing only 4 perfect outings in his last 16 trips to the mound. In fully half of them he's given up a run. It's not just a run of bad luck either. As we've discussed he's just not pitching well.

While Soriano has had past success in set-up roles, he's generally been unhappy in that position and at a time where you need guys to focus immediately because every game matters can you afford a guy like Soriano coming out of the pen?

Barrett (0.00 ERA in 7 appearences, with 1 walk and 5 Ks)  and Cedeno (1 HR to Ryan Howard, otherwise no hites or runs) have made cases. In the end I do think Barrett makes the roster... but not over Soriano.

Soriano was brought in not primarily to be a closer for the Nats, but to be a difference maker play-off closer. Storen, while looking much better in 2014, has had already a couple of shaky relief appearances. How would it look if you left Soriano off the roster & Storen blows saves in the first two games? What do you do then? Well you move Clippard to the closer roles but that's not the point. The point is you signed a guy specifically for this moment, you need him, and hey, he's sitting at home!

That doesn't mean you have to make Soriano your closer, but it does mean you are taking a risk by leaving him at home. If you lose because you had to rely on him as Plan Band he doesn't come through - that's on him. If you lose because he wasn't even around, even if it can be justified, that's on you.

So how does Barrett make the roster? Because Detwiler or Blevins doesn't, most likely Detwiler. With Roark or whoever moving into that long relief role Detwiler, who is seemingly not a favorite of this organization anymore, loses his specific role. Blevins, for all his failings, is better versus lefties, so can be the "other" lefty in the pen now that Thorton has taken his spot. Stammen can handle an emergency long outings.  Kilgore has Blevins out and I can see that. Neither Blevins or Detwiler has been pitching well though so it could be either, but Soriano is definitely in.

Stras, Gio, ZNN, Fister
Storen, Clippard, Stammen, Soriano, Barrett, Thorton, Roark, Blevins

Ramos, LaRoche, Cabrera, Desmond, Rendon, Werth, Span, Bryce
Frandsen, Hairston, Zimm, Lobaton, Espinosa

That's what I expect the 25 man active playoff roster to be. But what about a LHB on the bench?  What about it?  Schierholtz is BAD. Are you really messing with your roster to make sure you have a lefty bat that has hit .188 / .236 / .310 versus righties this year is kept? Frandsen vs RHP - .238 / .296 / .308.  I don't like Frandsen but unless there is a submariner reliever out there you are scary afraid of having righties face it makes no sense to keep Schierholtz who does nothing for the team.  The Nats might end up with the best record in the NL and they haven't had a good LHB on the bench all year. (really if you are that concerned with having a LHB the way to go is 3rd catcher - use Lobaton as the LHB but thats not great either.  Just keep Frandsen)

3- So Zimmerman makes it.  Does he start?

Zimm with the Nats this season : .282 / .345 / .456
Cabrera with the Nats this season : .230 / .314 / .399

If Zimm can hit it isn't even a question. You want that bat in the line-up. But how to get him in?  The easy answer is he takes over for LaRoche or Bryce versus tough lefties. OK. What about the other 80% of the time?

This question has no good answer. If Zimm plays third you'd worry about every ball hit there and if Rendon happened to slump you know everyone would blame the move back to second. If Zimm doesn't play third than you run the real risk of Cabrera bringing down the line-up (there's a reason CLE traded him). Not a lot, but if a couple other guys slump and with the pitching better in the playoffs it could matter alot.

I don't have an answer here. How I expect the Nats to use him is as a LF versus tough lefties. (Which as we've noted before is silly because LaRoche is really the one that needs to sit but hey, it is what it is) If Cabrera goes 0 for his first 3 games or something, then I expect to see Zimmerman back starting at 3B.  If Cabrera is ok or better Zimm stays on the bench.