Nationals Baseball: Still on target

Friday, April 27, 2012

Still on target

It wasn't the finish most Nats fans were expecting, from a team that has made a habit out of pulling close games out late in 2012, but it happens.  The Nats did exactly what they needed to do, take 2 of 3 from a bad team on the road.  Now they can look at what may be a challenge, taking a game from the Dodgers in LA. 

The Dodgers aren't the superpower that they seemed to be over the first few weeks, but they are a very solid club.  Andre Ethier is a good bat but most of the rest are average, replaceable hitters (Maybe AJ Ellis has found a couple year groove) and the left side of the infield is doing terribly, giving the Dodgers two holes in the lineup, including leadoff.  Of course the whole lineup is made 10x better by the Triple Crown threat that is Matt Kemp. It's almost scary to think how impressive his stats could be with some decent hitters in front of him. The guy is leading the league in RBI, but has only driven in 23 guys despite 10 home runs and 31 hits over all.  He's almost single handedly given himself his biggest threat to the RBI title by getting on base so much (.513 OBP) that Ethier has inflated RBI numbers.  How the Nats pitchers handle that 3/4 will be interesting.

But really the question will be if the Nats can score enough runs to win.  That 7 run outburst was the only time in 8 games they've scored more than 4 runs. (only second time they scored more than 3). Kershaw is one of the best arms pitching today and Billingsly can be almost as good when he's on. Capuano is the third pitcher the Nats will face and he's fine, but he's a nice closer for the Nats as he is beatable if they go into that 3rd game needing the win. The pen is solid though their closer has had a rough couple outings  against the Braves.

I like the Nats to take that 1 of 3, at least.  I just can't see a sweep when the Nats are putting out Strasburg and Gio, pitching as well as he has, in two of the games.

Other Notes:

  • How long before Clippard goes out with an injury? I'm not saying that in the "ha ha Nats Med staff is terrible" way.  I really think most pitchers pitch with minor injuries all the time and they are only seriously looked at when they start to pitch poorly. 
  • At what point do you start worrying about Danny Espinosa?  He has the potential to be that .200 hitter and he's no longer in the unlucky BABIP club - he's just not putting the ball in play.
  • On the flip side,  Jayson Werth is crushing the ball when he hits it and is striking out a lot less this year than he ever has. Even when he's struggling to get a hit (only .214 over the past week) his ability to take a walk and smash an XBH makes him a good offensive player.  This is the Werth the Nats wanted.


brendan said...

I think you predicted in at the beginning of the season, and I agreed, Clippard wouldn't have the same success as last year. But he's likely already been responsible for two of the five losses this season (not a guarantee of course). Yes it would help if the Nationals had a bigger lead but still.

Anonymous said...

Do you see a trade of Lombo or Espi coming this year? I've lost some faith on Espi and I think he should only face lefties until he improves his left sided swing. Contending teams don't let their starters work out their kinks at the expense of the team. We should be beyond that. Otherwise you might as well bring up Harper because he can't be worse than Nady, Derosa etc...

Deacon Drake said...

I think that Davey should have lifted Clippard after the 7th... the rain and the half-inning stoppage had an effect, and his changeup does not work well with a wet ball.
Sending Burnett/Lidge would have been smarter in retro.

Anonymous said...

I'm already worried about Espy...way too big of a swing. I'm starting to think Lombo is our best bet at 2nd

Positively Half St. said...

Before we discard Espinosa, remember that we were ready to have Lombo replace Desmond before the season. We are still dealing with a small sample size.


Anonymous said...

2 of 3 easy, sweep if we beat Kershaw tonight.

Sec314 said...

Agree with all of this. Clippard is overworked/suffering from something/AND the league has figured him out.

Stammen, Mattheus, Lidge and Burnett were all available for the 8th last night. WTF Davey?

Espi has issues.

AND so does Desmond. He's tailed off from the first two weeks and the hacking at the first pitch bit has got to stop.

Barney said...

Changing the discussion slightly, you talked a lot about the Dodgers situation and what to look at. Can you name a blog or 2 that is the quality of this one (your fine remarks and the intelligent comments that follow) where I can read about the Dodgers? Actually, recommendations on quality blogs for ANY other teams would be appreciated.

DCNatty said...

Give Espi another solid month...still at .200 and you have to wonder. Desmon has tialed off some but his ABs still look much better then Espi who seems to only be swinging for the fences on every pitch. He must be getting advice from Ankiel. Zimm and Morse cant come back soon enough.

1 out 3 from LA, which means a 3-3 road trip and thats fine by me.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time judging the Nats without Zim, Morse, or Storen. Thats our 3 and 4 hiiters and closer. The only thing you can judge is the starting rotation because they are all healthy and they have the best ERA in the league.

Harper said...

brendan - Looking back I had Clippard as injured actually... uh oh.

Anon #1 - Possible but there's a lot of moving parts here, how these guys are doing, how the Nats are doing, what's available, who do they want... You're right contending teams don't usually let regulars work things out but can the Nats have moved from might get a WC to contender after just 18 games? Rizzo probably not thinking that way yet. As for Bryce - that's about team control of contracts as much as performance.

DD - Probably - though I see it as more of a lefty lefty reasoning.

Anon #2 - see +1/2St's comment. I know I asked but to answer my own question - I don't start worrying till the end of May (unless he's hitting <.150 or something)

Sec 314 - Desmond 9th from the bottom in P/PA - but that's who he is. It's what you sign up for in hopes he can break out. Last year they go through this I bet.

Barney -
I know I've heard for a while that people seem to like Dodger Thoughts and that's on the Sweetspot "Network" so I'd try that.

For just teams in general it's hard. Blogs shut down all the time (as unpaid labors of love are wont to do) and blogs don't update their "team blogs" list with much care so just searching can be frustrating. I guess I'd say try those on the SweetSpot Network (dropdown menu on the top of the screen) or the SB Nation ones. I wouldn't vouch for any but it's places to start.

I think the only blog I've mentioned here non-Nats wise is Roar of the Tigers, but that's for funny drawings, not so much for analysis (but you should check her passover and seder serieses regardless)

DC Natty - I knock on Desmond for his lack of patience but he IS striking out a lot less. So that's something.

Harper said...

Anon - fair enough, though this is the Nats for the next couple of weeks, maybe months so it can't be completely dismissed.

blovy8 said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with Clippard really. When you throw high fastballs, they get hit pretty far sometimes. It's very easy to second guess, but I would still rather have him out there in a one-run game late than Mattheus or Burnett right now.
Espy is striking out way too much, but his profile is a low-average guy who gets his homers and walks. Hopefully, he's just a few good swings away, confidence is a quirky thing. The team is producing so little power, I'm inclined to give him plenty of chances to work things out. For all the pesky contact-hitting charm of Lombo, he's not going to have that impact on a game as easily right now and he may as well play third more, if no immediate help is on the way this weekend.

Hoo said...

Clippard of '12 is not the '10 and '11 Clippard. Some folks thought Clippard wouldn't repeat '11 what he did in '10. He did. But it looks like he won't be as effective in '12 as he was the previous seaoson, when he was the best setup man in baseball.

Clippard was fairly abused for 2 years as a setup man and it wouldn't be surprising if he's pitching at 97% which has dramatically lowered his effectiveness. His whole value is using his jerky motion to deceive the change and if that's no longer effective, he's in a lot of trouble.

Froggy said...

We take 2 of 3 from the Dodgers.

Re Clippard, he got hit pretty good yesterday, so maybe teams are doing better scouting and wait for the inevitable high fastball or slider(?)

I'm not 'worried' about Espi, but it does look like his swing isn't as flat as last year and he is pressing and trying to crush it every swing. Like you said, if he isn't on an upward trend by end of May-ish...

Bigger worry is ZMN now that he is on the DL. I think there might be a crack in the sky.